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Letter to Ministry of Transport re: Tseycum Burial Grounds

Michael D. Langan
Regional Director
Ministry of Transport
620-800 Burrard St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2J8

Dear Mr. Langan

RE Tseycum First Nation's Burial Sites and Victoria Airport

For some time we followed press reports as to the state of negotiations between the federal government and the Tseycum First Nation arising out of the use of certain of their lands as airport lands and the issue of how to deal with paving over of First Nations burial sites for airport purposes.

It goes with out saying that the Aboriginal Rights Coalition find it utterly unacceptable that burial sites could have been paved over in the first place, particularly, in light of the teachings of the First Nations respecting non-disturbance of bones and the implications for the spirits in the after-life were this, unfortunately, to take place.

Under the circumstances with the airport already in place, perhaps appropriate removal of bones is the only alternative, conditional upon a satisfactory show of regret for the sacrilege already done. This should clearly include in our view, not only an apology, as would be expected in any industrial or commercial encroachment on burial grounds, but a reconciliatory offer of other appropriate lands in compensation for Tseycum lands taken over by the airport for use by the Department of Transport.

Canadians are by now well aware that the First Nations have aboriginal title to their traditional homelands and that such lands, if taken without consent are subject to full and fair compensation. As you know this aspect of aboriginal title was made clear in Delgamuukw over two years ago.

Accordingly, it seems to us that a negotiated settlement of the Tseycum claim should include offers of an apology for federal taking and continued using of the Tseycum lands without full consultation and consent, and an offer of other lands by way of compensation, or, perhaps, an offer of jointly held title to the airport lands with an agreement as to shared use and management of the lands, including shared revenue and job opportunities.

It is extremely disappointing to read press accounts that seem to indicate that the federal government is stalling on recognition of aboriginal title and fully compensating aboriginal people for Crown trespass on aboriginal lands. The seeming indifference that led to the paving over of aboriginal burial grounds only adds to the inference that the federal government does not truly respect aboriginal rights.

Since the airport carries on a business on the expropriated lands of the Tseycum, on land the Tseycum can no longer hope to use for their own economic developments, would it not be appropriate that the Department secure an arrangement permitting any First Nations employees at the airport to work on a tax free basis? Quite clearly, had the business been operating on Tseycum lands the employees would have had the tax benefit; why should it be lost because of the federal expropriation? This federal action had as its natural consequence, dispossession of the Tseycum and a denial to them of opportunities at some future time to be employed on those lands, as Tseycum lands, without obligation to pay federal taxes on the income earned?

Mr. Langan can be reached by phone at (604) 666-2387; fax (604) 666-2961