Federal appeal for Lelu Island case

Prince Rupert Northern View | Shannon Lough | October 25 2017

Legal activity over representation of Lelu Island continues to simmer in the federal system.

On Sept. 19 Donald Wesley, also known as Yahaan, filed an appeal with the federal court after his case regarding Lelu Island was dismissed by Justice Robert Barnes.

Following the federal government’s approval of the Pacific NorthWest LNG project to be built on Lelu Island in Sept. 2016, Wesley filed a judicial review arguing that he was not properly consulted as a representative of the Gitwilgyoots, one of the nine tribes of Lax Kw’alaams.

“Yahaan’s application is dismissed on the basis that he lacks the necessary standing to bring it in a representative capacity,” Justice Barnes stated in the July 26 decision.

However, in the appeal, Wesley’s legal counsel writes that Yahaan was unable to consult with the widely dispersed membership of the Gitwilgyoots Tribe within the time frame established in the court’s rules.

Another ground for appeal is that there was “no evidence that any Gitwilgyoots members oppose any of Yahaan’s views” and that there was insufficient weight given to Indigenous law.

Wesley’s judicial review was disrupted in March when Lax Kw’alaams Band challenged it on the basis that Yahaan was not a proper representative for the Gitwilgyoots and that the government only needed to consult with the band for its decision on Pacific NorthWest LNG.

“This judgment, if allowed to stand, would mean that an Aboriginal rights-holding group constituted under Indigenous law could have its application struck on the basis of an internal challenge to the group’s representative,” as stated in the appeal.

On Oct. 20, dozens of supporters for Wesley and Lelu Island travelled to witness raising a totem pole on the site.

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