For the past several years, the Simpcw First Nation, a division of the Secwepemc Nation (Shuswap Nation), has made repeated attempts to engage Parks Canada in consultations regarding Secwepemc Aboriginal title and rights in Jasper National Park. The Simpcw have evidence of their traditional use and occupancy of the Jasper Park supported by oral history, archeological and ethnographic reports, Hudson Bay journals, and early explorers/traveler accounts. Despite these efforts, the Simpcw have been met with a blunt statement that “Aboriginal rights and title to Jasper National Park were either surrendered by valid claimants or otherwise extinguished well before the enactment of the Constitution Act 1982.”
The Simpcw have requested that Parks Canada substantiate this assertion by presenting evidence of the means by which their Aboriginal title and rights in the Park were either surrendered or extinguished. Simpcw leaders believe the honour of the crown is in question and are once again requesting that Hon. Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment, provide them with answers to their important question regarding the means by which the federal government can claim that Simpcw title and rights interests in Jasper National Park have been either surrendered or extinguished. Judicial precedents at the Supreme Court of Canada require that the surrender of aboriginal title may only occur by the informed consent of the First Nation affected, and only through an accommodation agreement through which fair compensation is provided to the First Nation. Chief of the Simpcw First Nation, Nathan Matthew, stated, “The Simpcw have continued to deal with Parks Canada in good faith and have been met with unsubstantiated assertions that undermine the effective resolution of important questions on Aboriginal title and rights in National Parks”.
On Saturday, July 16 Jasper National Park will be sponsoring raising a Haida totem pole in the Jasper Townsite and the Simpcw First Nation is invited to participate in this “celebration of Aboriginal history, culture, art and reconciliation…”. The Simpcw have chosen not to participate in this event because of the lack of respect shown by Parks Canada and the federal Minister of the Environment for their fundamental rights to their traditional territory.