This week I had the chance to talk to all of those involved in the court case surrounding the sale of Watson Island, and I must say I’m a little more perplexed than I was before.
No, I’m not perplexed by why Lax Kw’alaams is getting involved – they see the filings by Kitkatla as a challenge to their Aboriginal title in the Prince Rupert Harbour and are coming to the forefront to defend it.
Nor am I perplexed by Kitkatla’s opposition to their involvement, given that less than two years ago Lax Kw’alaams said they needed to be consulted on the sale of Watson Island, which is deeded land, and Kitkatla is simply asking for the same thing on what both First Nations view as their traditional territory.
I’m also not perplexed by the City’s position that it doesn’t need to consult on the sale of deeded land, given that it is something that has never been done in the past and would set a pretty hefty precedent that would affect communities across the province and perhaps the country.
All of that makes sense, and I get it: Each party involved has a stance that could be argued for depending on your perspective. What I don’t get is why this case continues in the court system when Mayor Jack Mussallem says he’s concerned about the cost to taxpayers and Chief Elmer Moody says he wants to talk to the City about it. I don’t question either man’s intent, so what’s the problem?
Let’s face it, this case will be the subject of appeal after appeal regardless of which way it ends up – if Kitkatla wins I expect an appeal and if the City wins I expect an appeal – and will hold Watson Island and the taxpayers of Prince Rupert at bay for years on end.
I’ve been in a room with the leaders of these communities, and I don’t see why there hasn’t been more discussion or more effort to hold discussions to avoid the lengthy and costly court process.
Regardless who wins the court case, there may be no winners if this spends years in court.