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Railways - resolution of outstanding issues

In 1884 the “Railway Belt” on the mainland of B.C. was transferred to Canada from B.C. by virtue of "An Act respecting the Vancouver Island Railway, the Esquimalt Graving Dock, and certain Railway Lands of the Province of British Columbia, granted to the Dominion". It was a strip of land 40 miles wide (20 miles on each side of the proposed trans continental railway line). Reserves within the railway belt were included in the transfer.

In order to traverse an Indian reserve a legal taking or surrender was required. A railway right of way is generally 100 feet in width, with the occasional widening for stations or manager's residences. Fair market value was to be paid for the acres taken. Often the amount paid was less than fair market value. Injurious affection was not included in the compensation. Rarely are railway lines outside of their surveyed right of way (as with highways at times) although it does happen. 

Most often railway lines traversing Indian Reserves come under scrutiny when they are abandoned. In a number of cases the Ministry of Transportation acquired them for highway purposes. In other cases the province acquired them for hiking or biking trails. In the majority of cases they were not "reverted" to reserve status. There does not appear to be a policy within Indian Affairs pertaining to ensuring that the abandoned railway lines are returned to reserve status. 

A number of First Nations are fighting for the return to reserve status of the railway line right of way traversing their reserves. At the same time they often go after fair market value for the land taken. In order to proceed First Nations require the documentation pertaining to the acquisition of the right of way. This documentation includes Indian Affairs files, railway files (both government and corporate), survey plans, assessment authority documentation, memoirs and journals of the settlers in the area and so on.  

At LVB Strategic Negotiations & Research Group Inc. we locate the required documentation, prepare a report, develop a negotiation strategy and assist in negotiations if necessary.  

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