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NEWS: Halalt First Nation take water-rights issue to Supreme Court of Canada

News reports note, “The Halalt First Nation has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to look at a controversial plan by North Cowichan to pump water from the Chemainus River’s aquifers.”

“In July 2011, Madam Justice Catherine Wedge ruled in favour of the Halalt First Nation, who argued that the provincial government failed to properly consult and accommodate the Halalt when it approved North Cowichan’s drinking water well project in 2003. …(But) North Cowichan and the province appealed that decision in May 2012. …The B.C. Court of Appeal (ruled in November) that the District of North Cowichan (has) access to the water.”

“The issues the Halalt plans to ask the high court to clarify are who owns the groundwater under the reserve and aboriginal lands and whether the Crown should consider aboriginal title in its consultation process.”

The news reports add, “The Halalt are backed by various First Nations groups.”

The Council of Canadians has followed this issue since September 2009. In short, the Vancouver Island community of North Cowichan wants to dig wells to provide safe drinking water to its 4,000 residents. But the wells would be dug on the edge of the Halalt First Nation and draw about seven million litres of water a day from the Chemainus aquifer, which feeds the Chemainus River, which runs through the First Nation. That river is the source of drinking water for the Halalt, and a vital part of their culture. The water project has been approved by both federal and provincial environmental review processes. National Chief Shawn Atleo and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip have both issued statements of support for the Halalt and their demand for consultation and a comprehensive watershed management plan.

For more, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=4348. The news reports are at http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/supreme-court-asked-to-protect-chemainus-water-for-halalt-1.53230 and http://www.canada.com/Hunting+road+wells+made+November+news/7752140/story.html.