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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Coast Salish law and jurisdiction over natural resources : a case study with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Hanson, Erin Michelle


In this thesis, I consider the impacts and implications of the legally-mandated Crown-Indigenous consultation process as experienced by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish First Nation based in greater Vancouver. Each year, Tsleil-Waututh receives approximately four hundred new development proposals in its territory, requiring daily negotiations on projects from forestry operations to pipelines. Consultation thus becomes a regularly-occurring, everyday site of jurisdictional interaction, where legal orders meet and governments enter into dialogue regarding the uses of territory. I ask how Tsleil-Waututh is able to enact their jurisdiction over natural resources in their territory, given their territory is currently the site of multiple colonial legal orders and jurisdictional assertions which seek to eliminate or otherwise limit Indigenous authority. Based on ethnographic research with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, I argue that the legalization of the consultation process reduces Indigenous groups to mere participants within a Crown decision-making process, therefore rendering consultation in its current form unable to achieve its stated purpose of reconciliation. My research demonstrates that challenges inherent in Indigenous-Crown consultation are not a result of insufficient capacity on the part of First Nations but rather an element of the consultation process itself. Canadian law’s failure to define the outcome of consultation causes a disproportionate focus on procedural elements of consultation to secure certainty for the Crown; as a result, consultation disproportionately benefits the Crown and industry, and remains inadequate to protect Tsleil-Waututh’s rights, title, and interests from infringement over time. Regardless, Tsleil-Waututh does not participate in consultation as mere participants in a Crown process but rather does so as an assertion of its jurisdictional authority in order to uphold its own legal obligations to Tsleil-Waututh people and territory.

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