Tsilhqot'in call on B.C., Canada to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction amid COVID-19

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WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. — A British Columbia First Nation that won a landmark case establishing rights and title to its territory is calling on the provincial and federal governments to recognize its inherent jurisdiction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation, which won a groundbreaking Supreme Court of Canada case in 2014, has released a report on its experiences during the pandemic and makes several calls to action for the governments.

The report says the nation has faced numerous systemic and institutional constraints when seeking support from government partners, often because the Tsilhqot'in isn't treated as a true government entity.

For example, the nation initially had to rely on the same COVID-19 data as the general public and the First Nations Health Authority only began telling chiefs when there was a positive local case in May 2020.

The nation also says the RCMP refused to enforce bylaws enacted by its communities, including the installation of checkpoints, so for safety reasons, one community had to tell staff to allow anyone who challenged the checkpoints to enter the area.

The RCMP and B.C. and Canadian governments did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the report, which also says there have been positive achievements including collaborative work with these partners.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 18, 2021.

The Canadian Press