Haida Gwaii Title Recognized

Of the historical agreement, Gaagwiis Jason Alsop, President of the Haida Nation, said, “Our work will benefit not only the lands, water, people and all beings of Haida Gwaii, but the province and Canada as well.”
Photo credit: p2-r2 on Flickr

The Haida Nation’s journey to formal legal recognition of their Aboriginal title by the British Columbia (BC) government culminated in a historic agreement signed two decades after the Haida initiated legal actions. This effort began over 20 years ago when the Haida Nation first pursued legal channels to have their title recognized formally. The aim was to establish their inherent right to the land of Haida Gwaii, an archipelago off the coast of BC, which they have historically inhabited.

The historical backdrop of this legal struggle involves significant oppression faced by the Haida at the hands of the government. This includes attempts by the Crown to assert sovereignty over Haida territories, effectively denying the Haida’s rightful claim and governance of their land. Such governmental actions represent a broader context of colonial policies aimed at assimilating Indigenous peoples and undermining their cultural and territorial sovereignty. The Haida have consistently resisted these attempts, maintaining their connection to the land without ever surrendering or ceding their title.

Canada’s constitution mandates the Council of the Haida Nation to conduct the external affairs of the Haida Nation and to steward the lands and waters of Haida Gwaii, ensuring that the Haida relationship with Haida Gwaii continues in perpetuity. Image credit: Gaayhllxid • Gíhlagalgang “Rising Tide” Haida Title Lands Agreement

The recent “Rising Tide” title agreement is pivotal as it shifts ownership and jurisdiction from the Crown to the Haida Nation, as recognized in Crown law. This is a significant departure from the usual legal battles over land rights, as emphasized by Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin and Premier David Eby. They highlighted that this agreement was reached through collaborative efforts and mutual respect rather than contentious litigation, which would have prolonged uncertainty for residents and businesses on Haida Gwaii.

This acknowledgment by the BC government is seen as a foundational step in the reconciliation process, honouring the Haida’s deep historical and cultural ties to Haida Gwaii and acknowledging the past harms and denials by the government. The agreement was celebrated as a historic milestone in the relationship between the Haida Nation and the government of BC, setting a precedent for how Aboriginal titles can be recognized and implemented in Canada.

Read more about this issue here.