Municipal staff referrals and opportunities to speak at public hearings do not equate to meaningful consultation according to the Neskonlith Indian Band.
The band recently served both the City of Salmon Arm and Salmon Arm Shopping Centres Inc. with a court petition after city council approved issuance of a hazardous area development permit for the SmartCentres shopping centre.
According to a copy of the petition obtained by the Observer, the band is demanding that the permit be quashed and a declaration issued respecting the necessity of establishing meaningful consultation with the Neskonlith Indian Band.
“Despite repeated assertions of aboriginal rights and title, and repeated requests for the establishment of a consultation process to discuss its concerns about the potential impact of the development on asserted rights and title (and reserve lands)… the city has refused to engage in any consultation process with the Neskonlith Indian Band,” the petition states.
The band is not seeking monetary reward or compensation of legal fees. It is seeking to mitigate concerns relating to flood risk resulting from the proposed development, and the impact it might have on neighbouring lands and ecological values.
The province’s Guide to First Nations Engagement on Local Government Statutory Approvals recommends consultation with First Nations be meaningful, “with the intention of reasonably addressing aboriginal claims and should be carried out through a timely, reasonable, transparent and proactive process. At a minimum, consultation involves corresponding and talking together for a mutual understanding.”
Both served parties have 21 days to respond to the court and petitioner.