BC First Nation files lawsuit against group it says is using its land to grow and sell cannabis without licence

| Staff

A First Nation in British Columbia has filed a lawsuit against individuals it says are, among other activities, using the Nation’s land for growing and selling cannabis without a license.

The Nisg̱a’a Nation, located northeast of Prince Rupert, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of British Columbia on December 14, 2023, accusing a group referring to themselves as the “Raven Clan Outlaws” of illegally occupying and undertaking harmful activities at a site within Nisg̱a’a traditional territory and the Nass Wildlife Area.

“The occupants’ activities at the site include: damaging forest resources by clear-cutting trees; erecting permanent cabins and structures; marketing accommodations; operating a farm; raising and selling livestock near waterways (now at risk of contamination),” reads a press release from the Nation. “They also appear to be growing and selling cannabis without a license. They have stated they do not recognize provincial or federal laws, and we understand that they have not applied for or received approval from any government to use this land.”

Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government (NLG) launched the lawsuit in order to stop what they say is an unsanctioned occupation of their land, arguing that under the Nisg̱a’a Treaty, Nisg̱a’a citizens have constitutionally protected harvesting rights within the Nass Wildlife Area and they have a responsibility to Nisg̱a’a citizens and to protect Nisg̱a’a treaty rights as well as the environment.

The actions of the Raven Clan Outlaws, the suit continues, prevent Nisg̱a’a citizens from exercising their treaty rights to safely harvest wildlife in the area, noting that hunting near an occupied site would be dangerous and against Nisg̱a’a laws. The occupants, it says, are clear-cutting forests, not complying with environmental and cannabis legislation, polluting the grounds with farm waste, and potentially contaminating nearby waterways.

“Nisg̱a’a Lisims Government is taking this action to protect our citizens’ rights, our traditional lands, and the larger Nass Wildlife Area,” said NLG President Eva Clayton. “The occupiers are causing real harm to the environment and cannot be allowed to continue to undertake their unlawful activities at the site. The Nisg̱a’a Treaty provides our citizens with the right to hunt and harvest wildlife to provide for their families, as they always have. We will do everything we can to protect these hard-won rights.”

A statement on their website says the Nisg̱a’a Nation is represented by NLG, which has the authority to pass laws on a broad range of matters. It also states the Nisg̱a’a lawmaking authority is concurrent with federal and provincial authority. 

The Raven Claw Outlaws are described on their website as reoccupying stolen lands, saying they do not apply for permits to harvest resources on traditional lands, do not recognize provincial legislation on traditional lands, and do not recognize federal legislation on traditional lands. 

A phone number on the Outlaw’s website is no longer in service. A link on their website directs to a “​Mail Order and Local Delivery Cannabis Dispensary” with the Outlaw’s fist and raven logo, saying the crops are grown on traditional land and under traditional law. 

The website also mentions plans for a store at the Ravens Nest Ranch located at 11km on Cranberry Connector on Gamlakyeltxw Lax Yip. 

The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs October newsletter refers to both the Ravens Nest Ranch, established in 2023, as well as community members working to build capacity “on the farming of pigs, chickens, rabbits, cannabis, and hemp.”

The Nisg̱a’a Nation is named within BC’s Cannabis Control and Licensing Act

You can read more about the lawsuit here