In the court case involving the City of Prince Rupert, the Lax Kw’alaams First Nation and the Gitxaala First Nation of Kitkatla, the last two of whom are claiming Aboriginal title on Watson Island, took another turn this week as Lax Kw’alaams applied to Court to oblige a hereditary Chief to be made available as a second representative to be examined for discovery.
According to papers filed in the Supreme Court of BC on October 12, Kitkatla Chief Elmer Moody was questioned about when Kitkatla lived on Watson Island, what the band used the island for, if Aboriginal uses have been practiced on the land in the last 50 years, if Aboriginal title was practiced while the pulp mill was operational, what the traditional name of Watson Island is. According to the documents, Chief Moody said he did not know the answers as only the Blackfish Clan used and claims ownership of Watson Island and he is not a member of that clan, but that the answers rest on the oral history of Blackfish hereditary chief Clarence Innes.
After requesting a chance to question Mr. Innes, a letter was sent to Lax Kw’alaams counsel indicating that “oral history does not easily fit into the discovery process” and that the Gitxaala refused to produce Mr. Innes for questioning.
Now Lax Kw’alaams counsel has filed an application to the court to order Mr. Innes be available for questioning on or before November 15 and that any of the 29 outstanding questions from a June 16 discovery session be answered by November 15 as well.
“During his testimony at the Examination of Discovery, Chief Moody stated that the basis of the Plaintiff’s claim to Watson Island rests on the oral history of Clarence Innes, who is hereditary chief of the Blackfish Clan, and his clan…The Plaintiffs now contend that they do not have to produce a witness who can attest to the oral history evidence,” read the document.
“As a result, the defendants would be left without any evidence at all on Discovery supporting the asserted claim of title and the assertions of irreparable harm.”
Lax Kw’alaams contends that getting the information from the oral history is “essential to allow Lax Kw’alaams to prepare for trial” and that there is no rule in BC precluding oral history from the examination process. It says they have requested the information before, but are now turning to the courts to move the process forward.
“Chief Moody has failed to answer any of the requests for information. The Defendant fears that without an order of this court the information will not be forthcoming in a timely manner,” read the document.
The documents have been filed with the Court but no Court ruling has accepted the allegations, or the arguments, nor has the application been considered by the Court.