08/06/2014 11:55 EDT

Gitxsan First Nation Blocks CN Rail After Eviction Notice


A B.C. First Nation shut down the CN Rail line through its traditional territories for several hours, citing a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling.

The Gitxsan First Nation had issued eviction notices last month to companies operating on its land in northwestern British Columbia, with a Tuesday night deadline to cease operations and vacate their territory.

A Gitxsan negotiator told CBC News the blockade lasted from 10 p.m. on Tuesday to 6 a.m. on Wednesday. The railway connects Prince Rupert's busy port with the rest of Canada.

"We have people wearing red and black shirts with Gitxsan on it. It’s not confrontational. It’s not meant to be violent. We’re asking people to respect our rights and title,” Gwaans, whose English name is Beverley Clifton Percival, told APTN.

The band plans to continue to enforce eviction notices against CN, as well as any forestry operations and all sport fishermen inside claimed territory roughly the size of the Netherlands.

Although the eviction is moving forward, the band is "giving all parties time to act," Percival said. "We’re trying to work with all parties."

CN Rail spokesman Mark Hallman said the eviction matter is up to the B.C. and federal governments, "who are working to address issues raised by Gitxsan chiefs."

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld First Nations title rights to claimed land and required aboriginal consent before any development proceeds.

The two sides are in negotiations, according to The Globe and Mail.

With files from The Canadian Press

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