Rail corridor case before the courts

Okanagan Indian Band seeks injunction to stop sale of corridor to local municipalities

The fate of a proposed recreational trail between Coldstream and Kelowna is before the courts.

The Okanagan Indian Band’s request for an injunction to postpone Canadian National’s sale of the Commonage rail corridor to local municipalities began at B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver Monday.

“Our lawyers presented a strong case for an injunction to Justice Myers,” said Chief Byron Louis Monday.

“Over the next two days we will hear from the other parties involved.”

The proceedings are expected to wrap up Wednesday.

The OKIB asserts that 22 kilometres of the rail line that runs through the Commonage reverted to reserve land when it ceased to be used for railway purposes and cannot be lawfully sold.

The Commonage Indian reserve was created in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, but the band says federal and provincial officials eliminated the reserve a decade later.

“Our case is distinguishable enough from other cases that we feel it deserves its own trial,” said Louis,

“If the sale is allowed to proceed, our options are severely limited. That’s the crux of our irreparable harm argument.”

At a meeting in Lake Country April 13, a power point presentation by the district outlined plans for the corridor, including selling off surplus lands.

“Planning to carve up and sell off lands like they did in 1893 isn’t acceptable to us,” said Louis,

“Further attempts to regain what is rightfully ours will only make us look like the bad guys, when we’re just trying to right a historical wrong.”

The OKIB filed a statement of claim in BC Supreme Court March 24 naming CN Rail, Canada, B.C., the District of Lake Country, the City of Kelowna and the Regional District of the North Okanagan as defendants.