British Columbia

Gitxsan First Nation says CN Rail blockade was just the start of fight over land

A First Nation that blocked a CN Rail line in northwestern British Columbia for hours Tuesday night due to an ongoing territory dispute with the federal government says it will continue to fight for its lands.

Railway says there were no stoppages from last night's blockade

This photo from January shows members of the Gitxsan First Nation blockading a CN railroad track in Kitwanga, B.C., between Terrace and Smithers. The Gitxsan initiated another blockade on Aug. 5 to protest the federal government's offer of what it says is Gitxsan land to the Tsimshian. (Robin Rowland/Canadian Press)

A First Nation that blocked a CN Rail line in northwestern British Columbia this week due to an ongoing territory dispute with the federal government says it will continue to fight for its lands and rights.

Gitxsan members shut down a stretch of CN's railway in the disputed territory for eight hours beginning at 10 p.m. PT Tuesday, a representative said Wednesday morning.

The centre of the Gitxsan Nation in B.C.'s northwest is the Hazelton area along the Skeena River. The Gitxsan are comprised of 6 villages, Gitwangax, Gitsegukla, Gitanmaax, Kispiox, Glen Vowell, and Gisgega’as, and claim territory across 33,000 sq. km. (

Beverley Clifton Percival, the Gwaans, or negotiator, for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, said the blockade came after a two-year-long stalled effort to have the federal government rescind its offer of those lands to two Tsimshian​ bands.

"We're trying to be reasonable and give time for this issue to be resolved," she said. "We had meetings with Canada and British Columbia and we're continuing to find a solution. We've prepared and presented a way forward. It is Canada that is not willing to commit."

Last month, 54 hereditary chiefs known as Gitxsan Simgiigyet issued eviction notices to outside operations in Gitxsan-claimed territory after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld First Nations title rights to claimed land and required aboriginal consent before any development proceeds.

After talks stalled on Monday, the hereditary chiefs decided to proceed in enforcing some of the eviction notices, which were issued to sports fishery operations, the forest industry and CN Rail.

CN not impacted: spokesman

CN Rail spokesperson Mark Hallman said there were no stoppages due to last night's action.

"Our operations are business as usual. And it is our view that at the end of the day, it is up to the British Columbia and Canadian government to address the issues raised by the Gitxsan chiefs."

The B.C. Supreme Court has granted an injunction in favour of CN Rail. The court orders anyone who blockades the mainline to stop.

"CN expects the injunction to be respected. At this time, there have been no attempts to halt CN operations in the area," Hallman said.

Percival told CBC News on Wednesday morning that there are no immediate plans for future blockades, but that Tuesday night's action was "only the beginning."

The Gitxsan Hereditary Chiefs say they have invited federal and provincial representatives to meet with them again Thursday.

The Gtixsan claim 33,000 square kilometres of territory in northwestern B.C., north of Smithers and Terrace.

On mobile? Click to read the B.C. Supreme Court injunction in favour of CN Rail

With files from the CBC's Wil Fundal and The Canadian Press


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