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Cowichan First Nations’ bid to recover disputed Richmond land, fishing rights wraps up for now

The parties will be returning to court to make their final arguments in 2023.
The lengthy trial spanning four years wrapped up last month at the B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria.

A lengthy legal battle to determine who can claim roughly 780 acres of publicly owned land in Richmond has drawn to a close ⁠— for now.

The Richmond News previously reported the Cowichan Nation Alliance (CNA) was in court to claim an area of land near Triangle Beach, along the south arm of Fraser River.

The CNA, made up of the Cowichan Tribes, Stz’uminus First Nation, Halalt First Nation and Penelakut Tribe, is also seeking the right to fish for food in the area.

The CNA initiated legal proceedings in 2014 against the Attorney General of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the City of Richmond. The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, along with Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation, are also named as defendants.

The Musqueam Indian Band and Tsawwassen First Nation both have rights to fish along the south arm of the Fraser River.

The trial, which began in 2019 and lasted a total of 369 days over four years, wrapped up in B.C. Supreme Court in Victoria just a few weeks ago, on Nov. 30.

According to court documents, the area in question is part of a traditional village and surrounding land, totalling about 1,846 acres, known as the Lands of Tl’uqtinus that was “exclusively occupied” by the Cowichan, including at the time Canada issued grants for those lands. The City of Richmond and Government of Canada denied this in court documents.

“Our homeland was stolen from us. We want the lands that are held by the government returned to us,” Cowichan Tribes Chief William Seymour previously said in a press release issued by the CNA.

David Robbins, one of the lawyers representing the CNA, told the News the CNA was seeking “a negotiated reconciliation with British Columbia” for the lands.

The parties are set to make their final arguments in 2023, and there is a chance the court might make a decision later in the year.

- With files from Kirsten Clarke.