It appears a lawsuit claiming Westside Road trespasses on Okanagan Indian Band land is essentially over with the only remaining issue being compensation and how to proceed.

Two band members sued the province of B.C. for trespassing on their land since the road was straightened and Whiteman’s Creek were moved in 1964.

Reynold John Bonneau and Mildred Rose Bonneau have right of possession for the lands and sued in 2022 after decades of negotiations with the province to resolve the issue produced no results. They are seeking compensation for past trespass — 60 years of it — and current and future trespass as well as an order of possession, preventing anyone from using the road.

Before 2021, the province was amenable to negotiation but pulled out in 2021, claiming that a 1982 survey proved it was not on Bonneau lands nor OKIB land, according to a decision released this week.

The province of B.C. fought the case in court, which went to trial last year. But last November, Indigenous Services Canada told the province the survey it relied on contained errors and a new survey confirmed the road crossed Bonneau’s lands. 

The province has since admitted that it trespassed without authority and now the question is how much the province owes and how the situation will be rectified, which should be simple but is complicated by the Indian Act.

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The most recent issue was a request that the court order an evaluation of the lands to determine compensation and legitimize the highway route through a land transfer from the Bonneaus to the OKIB so the province can officially take it.

In a complicated ruling, justice Kathleen Ker said that would simply not work, considering it required approval from the Minister of Indigenous Services and the OKIB council, neither of which was guaranteed, nor likely to be in place before the case is over.

They’ll have to find another way.

Final arguments on the trial are scheduled for this July, if it continues that far.

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