By Kevin Nimmock
A 14-year-old controversy is finally coming to a boil on the Shuswap reserve. Sam Paul, an elder and long time resident on the reserve is firing shots at the Shuswap Band Council and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) for what he claims is a wrongful attempt to sell land that he is validly leasing.
Mr. Paul, who is in no way related or connected to former Shuswap Chief Paul Sam, took out an advertisement in the May 8 edition of The Pioneer. In the ad, Mr. Paul wrote that Rosa Paul has been validly leasing Lot 12 on the reserve to him since 2003. According to Mr. Paul, the Shuswap Band Council and AANDC have subdivided the lot with the intention to sell without his permission.
I hereby give notice to anyone intending to purchase these lots that I will enforce my lease, Mr. Paul wrote in the ad.
The Shuswap Band Council is now speaking out to try to explain its side of the convoluted issue. According to Band Chief Barb Cote, Ms. Paul left her property to her nephew, Chris Paul, when she passed away in 2001. Mr. Chris Paul is not and was not a Shuswap Band member.
Under AANDC policy, a non-band member cannot own land on a reserve. Thus, since Mr. Chris Paul cannot own the land under AANDC policy, Mr. Sam Pauls lease is not valid.
To add extra complication to the problem, AANDC is supposed to register and approve every sale or transfer of property between band members. In this case, Mr. Chris Pauls acquisition was never registered, thus no one knew about Mr. Sam Pauls technical inability to legally possess a lease on the land.
We are the ones that are taking the brunt of the blame for that unfortunate non-transfer, Ms. Cote said. Had AANDC followed through back then, we would not be in this situation. The issue started to come to light when the band began undergoing a Section 35 Transfer under the Indian Act. The transfer involves the expropriation of land from the reserve to expand the highway. The process requires a review of land ownership on the reserve.
Recently, the Shuswap Band Council opted into land code to have control over reserve land but could not enter Lot 12 because the land has not been officially settled. Thus, AANDC has the legal power and responsibility to sell the land to a band member, at which point it can be entered into land code to avoid future divisions and controversies.
Earlier this year, AANDC began listing the subdivided Lot 12, which provoked Mr. Sam Pauls ad in the Pioneer. The conflict is circular and ongoing, with no end in sight. Mr. Sam Paul has sought a lawyer to defend his right to lease the land.
Shuswap Band Councillor Timothy Eugene said one of the frustrating parts of the issue is that AANDC waited for years to begin listing the property.
It was always going to be sold, but AANDC waited until they had a long list of properties to list at once, Mr. Eugene said. It is just their way of saving money.
Mr. Paul is being misled saying that it was us that initiated the sale with AANDC, but it was not us. It was going to happen eventually, it just so happened that it occurred while we were in the council position.
Moving forward, Chief Cote said she wants to meet with Mr. Sam Paul to explain that she is on his side.
If we as Chief and Council had the power to stop the sale, we would have done so a long time ago, Ms. Cote said. Our lawyer is trying to work with Mr. Pauls lawyer to mitigate the situation as much as possible. We are not trying to steal something from Mr. Paul.