Sun Peaks court order: Economic racism

Posted by admin on Sep 4th, 2004

Arthur Manuel

The Supreme Court of British Columbia banned Aboriginal political presence at Sun Peaks in an interlocutory injunction on September 3, 2004. The interlocutory injunction prohibits the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Center from having a camp at Sun Peaks to monitor the destruction and sale of their land. People who are at the camp now could be arrested at any time. This decision completely ignores or recognizes any value to our Secwepemc indigenous economy.

The Honourable Madame Justice Satanove accepted an Order drafted by Darcy Alexander, Vice President and General Manager of Sun Peaks and Frank Quinn, Lawyer and Sun Peaks Investor. The Order gives the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) orders to stop and arrest any Indian person and their friends who they suspect are going to occupy land at the base area of Sun Peaks. People arrested under this provision would be charged with “Criminal Contempt of Court”.

The BC Court Order totally endorses Sun Peaks’ economic interests and denies the fact that indigenous peoples do have economic rights, including the right to politically defend and protect their proprietary interests when they are being willfully ignored by the federal and provincial governments and industries like Sun Peaks.

Justice Satanove totally backed up Darcy Alexander and Frank Quinn’s condominium and townhouse development. Frank Quinn stated in his Affidavit that he is building 60 condominiums and 48 townhouses. Condominiums at Sun Peaks average about $255 thousand dollars a unit which totals to $15 million dollars. Townhouses average approximately $445 thousand dollars which totals $21 million dollars. The total sale to be made by Frank Quinn under this Court Order is $36 million dollars. Mr. Frank Quinn said in his Affidavit that “if the camp is not removed, I believe sales for both these projects will be negatively affected”.

Darcy Alexander tried to discredit the efforts of the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Center by using a controversial and questionable Press Release issued by the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council (SNTC). Darcy Alexander submitted the SNTC Press Release as “Exhibit D” and said in his Affidavit that “the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which does represent local Indian bands, has issued a press release objecting to the protest.” At the BC Supreme Court hearing Sun Peaks’ legal counsel said the so called protestors did not represent any body and were opposed to by the Shuswap Chiefs. Madame Justice Satanove used the SNTC Press Release to justify her prohibition order.

The Skwelkwek’welt Protection Center did argue before the BC Supreme Court that Aboriginal Title does have an economic component and that this economic aspect of Aboriginal Title needs to be taken into account in the “balance of convenience test” used to decide who is going to suffer irreparable economic harm. It is clear that Frank Quinn would not suffer anything by having to wait until our Aboriginal Title matters are dealt with, but we would suffer immediately if he is allowed to build the 60 condominiums and 48 townhouses. This was totally ignored.

The BC Supreme Court was briefed that the World Trade Organization (WTO) did take our economic interests into account when the Indigenous Network on Economic Trade (INET) had three amicus curiae submissions accepted in the Canada US softwood lumber dispute. In those submissions it was argued that “the federal government’s non-recognition of Aboriginal Title is a cash subsidy to the Canadian forest industry”. This also applies to the land that is being sold by Darcy Alexander and Frank Quinn. It is clear that BC Supreme Court on this matter is living in the dark ages when indigenous economic interests are valued at zero but when the same property is granted to white investors it is valued at current market values. This is a form of systemic economic racism.

The BC Court Order was drafted by Darcy Alexander and Frank Quinn and basically prohibits any Indian person from going to Sun Peaks, because it makes them subject to immediate questioning and possible arrest for Criminal Contempt of Court. The BC Court Order does have some limitations in the area and in terms of purpose but on the ground Indian people always feel extreme duress under any prohibition enforced by the RCMP. This has been described in many Indian criminal justice reports.

In fact the sign “No Indians Allowed” is being enforced by this BC Court Order. It is based upon giving developers and real estate agents an “Indian Free Zone” to sell our land under the protection of an injunctive remedy by the BC Supreme Court. This kind of lopsided valuations needs to stop if the economic conditions of our people are going to meaningfully and substantially improve. Aboriginal title does have a macro economic component.

The provincial government did argue that other alternatives do exist like the Haida Case but they were reminded that the province has not set a process to implement this. And that the decision to approve Phase 2, and the $285 million dollar expansion was not subject to the Haida process so their position was basically only giving lip service to the Haida decision. The BC government said they did not want to stand on their “Trespass Notice” but only on public interest arguments.

It is clear that the BC government realizes that Trespass is pretty hard to defend against Aboriginal people who have Aboriginal Title. In fact the Supreme Court agreed with the province to skirt around the Trespass issue and focus on the behavior of the Secwepemc people and supports living at the camp as being a nuisance.

The avoidance of dealing with Trespass however does not make the sale of the condominiums and townhouses legally perfect from a private property point of view. It is clear that the province and Sun Peaks are making these sales with the full knowledge that the Secwepemc peoples reject these real estate deals. The only support they got is from the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, who does not have Aboriginal Title at Sun Peaks. Aboriginal Title belongs to the Secwepemc peoples collectively and actually use and defend their land according to their traditional values, knowledge and activities.

Right now there are about 12 people at the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Center camp and they are subject to this Court Order. I feel these people are on the front line defending the indigenous economic interests of our peoples. The traditional values, knowledge and activities they defend are the basis of our economic rights as indigenous peoples. I fully support them in their committed effort to expose the way the Canadian judicial system’s “injunctive remedy” is the legal means to impoverish our peoples.

Our people will not get one cent form Frank Quinn’s $36 million dollar real estate deals – with our land – the only outstanding question is what did the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council get from Frank Quinn, Darcy Alexander and Sun

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