Amidst Fred Vos's passionate letter defending his title to land in this area, the word that stood out most for me was "recently" - (as in, "I have recently become alarmed over the land claims issues that flood the newspapers"). Mr. Vos is no newcomer to the region, he says, and I assume he has not been under some kind of a spell for the past few decades a la Rip Van Winkle.
So, then the question is why is there anything recent about this long-standing and tragic situation of land theft? Yes, the Crown has "generously" doled out land title certificates to settlers and their descendants in this area for the past 150 years. But they did so, without observing the law of property. I speak here not only of the traditional land tenure customs of the Dakelh, but of British and Canadian law which is usually pretty clear: someone cannot simply and forcibly grab another's property without agreement or compensation. Except for Treaty 8 in the Northeast corner of B.C. and the so-called Douglas Treaties made in small pockets of Vancouver Island, there were never any such agreements in this province, not until the Nisga'a agreement of the late 1990s. Settlers and their governments simply moved in and took over - all the while, spreading disease, banning indigenous governance, and attempting to kill the Indian in the child for the youth, exiled to abusive residential schooling. All these helped to debilitate - but did not stop - First Nations' defense of their land.
None of this is recent. The shameful dispossession long predates Mr. Vos's birth year of 1952. Generations of B.C. Native leaders protested and petitioned against this larceny for more than a century before the current and not-very-effective B.C. Treaty process began. Eventually a tide of recognition for the legitimacy of Aboriginal title swept in through landmark decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and inclusion of Aboriginal rights in the repatriated Canadian constitution. Again none of this is recent. It is just the ongoing process of decolonization which, speaking like Mr. Vos, as a landowner in Prince George, I predict is not - and should not - be painless even for those of us who in good faith purchased title that was not the Crown's to sell.