Indigenous nation says BC’s “free entry” regime is inconsistent with constitutional requirements and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
LACH KLAN / KITKATLA, Gitxaała territory, BC – Yesterday the Gitxaała filed a legal challenge in the British Columbia Supreme Court against the provincial government’s “free entry” mineral claim staking regime. The case, which is the first of its kind in BC, seeks to overturn multiple mineral claims granted by the Province between 2018 and 2020 on Banks Island, in the heart of Gitxaała territory on the north coast of BC, without consent, consultation or even notification to Gitxaała.
“The fact that BC still grants mineral claims with total disregard for Indigenous nations like Gitxaała is a damaging relic of colonialism that has no place in the present day,” said Hereditary Chief Matthew Hill. “We will not allow this to continue in Gitxaała territory and that is why we’ve launched our case.”
Under BC’s Mineral Tenure Act, anyone with a free miner certificate can register mineral claims online for a small fee with the click of a mouse, acquiring rights to minerals with no requirement for consultation or consent from the Indigenous nation in whose territory the mineral claims are located. Gitxaała’s case argues that this is inconsistent with constitutional requirements as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which BC has legally committed to implement.
“BC can’t meet its commitment to implement UNDRIP while its mineral claim process is stuck in the gold rush era,” said Hereditary Chief Elmer Moody. “If BC is serious about upholding UNDRIP then it needs to prioritize new mineral tenure laws that respect our Indigenous jurisdiction and meet BC’s own constitutional obligations.”
Gitxaała’s legal challenge comes in the wake of recent mining contamination on Banks Island. The Yellow Giant Gold Mine on Banks Island was approved by BC in 2014, and just a year later it illegally released mine waste into the environment. Shortly afterward the mine closed and its owner went bankrupt in 2016, with the company’s senior executives still facing prosecution.
“I was angry when Gitxaała learned that more new mineral claims had been granted without our knowledge, because we understand all too well where this story leads,” said elected Chief Councillor Linda Innes. “Gitxaała is still dealing with the damage caused on Banks Island by the Yellow Giant Gold Mine, and it all started with a mineral claim.”
Chief Moody added that he hopes Gitxaała’s case serves as a wake-up call for the BC government: “I challenge anyone from the BC government to look us in the eye and say that it’s appropriate for them to grant mineral claims in Gitxaała territory without even telling us about it, let alone getting our consent. What BC is doing is obviously wrong, and we are going to court to stop it.”
In addition to setting aside existing mineral claims that are part of the court proceeding, Gitxaała is asking the court to suspend claim staking in Gitxaała Territory.
A copy of Gitxaała’s Petition, and an accompanying legal backgrounder, is available at: