Political candidates in the upcoming provincial election heard first-hand from Northern Shuswap Tribal Council leaders about their struggle with the BC Treaty process during meeting held Thursday, April 6 in Williams Lake.
Accepting the invitation were Sally Watson (Cariboo-Chilcotin NDP Candidate), Rita Giesbrecht (Cariboo- Chilcotin Green Party Candidate), Scott Elliott (Cariboo North NDP Candidate) and Donna Barnett (Cariboo-Chilcotin Liberal MLA).
For close to 25 years, the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) has been negotiating in the BC Treaty process and say they are currently in a holding pattern, waiting for government action.
While their Agreement in Principle (AiP) was initialled by provincial and federal negotiators in the fall of 2016, the NStQ treaty team still awaits federal and provincial cabinets to officially approve the NStQ AiP in order for their treaty table to move into final negotiations (Stage five of the six-stage treaty process).
Leadership of the NStQ say they are extremely dismayed and frustrated by the lack of expediency and movement by both governments in the tripartite treaty negotiations.
During the meeting, leaders shared their struggles and frustrations regarding the lack of action being taken by government to fully engage with, and to deal with the unacceptable slow-pace of the treaty process. Each of the candidates was sympathetic to these struggles and barriers to move forward, and presented their personal and political party views.
“While it was a great opportunity to express our frustrations and concerns, and to hear feedback from our current Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Green Party candidate, and both the Cariboo-Chilcotin and Cariboo North NDP candidates, we believe it is now time for the rhetoric to end,” said NStQ spokesperson Chief Patrick Harry of the Canoe Creek Band. “We are hopeful and welcome positive actions, and not just words, from the political party that forms our next government, to address First Nations concerns and to move our NStQ treaty table forward in a much more expedient and respectful manner.”
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett said she has heard many frustrations and concerns brought forward by the NStQ leadership.
“I will ensure that the Premier arrives at your doorstep when she next visits the Cariboo-Chilcotin and that she is made aware of what I’ve heard today and also ensure that she is available to have a conversation, at length, with the NStQ,” she said.
Green candidate Rita Giesbrecht said the treaty process has been adversarial to date, rather than being collaborative and cooperative between First Nations and the settlement governments.
“Living in B.C. all these many years it has been my observation that this has been the case with all preceding administrations, both NDP and Liberal,” Giesbrecht said. “These governments have not been proactive to negotiating in good faith, in a speedy and expedient manner. Green Party principles dictate that things will be done very differently, and that the process is expedited accordingly, within a mutually agreed upon process, to a mutually agreed upon end.”
Sally Watson, the NDP candidate said if NDP leader John Horgan becomes Premier he will meet with the NStQ and negotiate respectfully and in good faith.
“I look forward to discussions that will keep all concerned parties apprised of the particulars,” Watson said.