B.C. Supreme Court won't go on a field trip — at least not yet — to determine whether the legal boundaries of the Tk'emlups Indian Band reserve are far larger than today.
The federal government made an application Wednesday for a court "viewing" — a tour of various points on a map first described in 1862 when the TIB reserve was first created. Those areas include Rayleigh and Monte Creek.
The application comes before a civil trial is set to start in B.C. Supreme Court in mid-November that is scheduled to extend into early February.
At stake is ownership of thousands of hectares of land — ranging from Crown range to a city subdivision — that TIB claims was originally granted in 1862, then illegally reduced 15 years later by government officials.
The lawsuit is not about traditional aboriginal rights and title. Instead, there is disagreement about historical map lines and granting of specific reserve lands.
Federal lawyer Ainslie Harvey argued Wednesday a tour in advance of the trial would help understanding of competing descriptions and views, including by expert surveyors who have interpreted historical documents.
"It's to see where are the points on the ground. It's one thing to see lines on a map and to hear a description. It's another to see … the land," she argued.
Justice Joel Groves rejected what he called "a journey through the wilds of B.C., looking from mountaintop to mountaintop," saying evidence needs to be heard during the trial — and to be in dispute — before a viewing of the land is appropriate.
But Groves didn't reject possibility of a viewing during the trial itself, noting the disputed boundary described around Monte Creek, as well as at Rayleigh, may be better understood if the court sees the lands firsthand.
"I can see how that area (Monte Creek) and how it's described, that having a viewing would be of assistance."
Viewings outside of court are rare in legal proceedings. Groves said it may be granted to put something in context "to say 'oh yes, that's what they're talking about.'"
The band has claimed its reserve is 55,000 hectares larger than today's boundaries. It claims the original reserve extended 12 kilometres north of the confluence of the Thompson rivers and 24 kilometres east.
It has set aside a million dollars to advance its claims in court.
The band has tried twice to settle the dispute through the federal specific claims process. Both attempts were unsuccessful.