Over $32 million in accumulated negotiation debt has been forgiven for four Secwepemc communities who entered the B.C. Treaty process more than two decades ago.
The Northern Shuswap Treaty Society (NSTS) and the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council (NSTC) said in a statement Monday they are celebrating after learning of the loan forgiveness by the Government of Canada for the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) nations.
“To finally see the day when real progress is being made would have meant a great deal to the elders who have worked towards self-government,” NStQ spokesperson Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Dog Creek-Canoe Creek) Chief Patrick Harry said.
“This opens a new chapter for our members and places the NStQ one step closer to breaking free from the Indian Act.”
Removing a major economic hurdle for the NStQ communities of Tsq’escen’ (Canim Lake); T’exelc (Williams Lake); Stswecem’c – Xgat’tem (Dog Creek – Canoe Creek); and Xat’sull – Cmetem (Soda Creek – Deep Creek), the NSTC in a news statement noted the treaty process has been reinvigorated with recent developments including the return of jurisdiction over children and families, and adoption of UNDRIP legislation by the B.C. government.
The NStQ is in the fifth stage of treaty negotiations with B.C. and Canada. It is one of six stages before the sixth and final stage of implementation of the treaty.
The debt was part of a ‘comprehensive land claim negotiation loan’ the NSTC agreed to take on when the communities entered the treaty process in 1994.
“I hope that the forgiveness of this debt demonstrates this commitment in a concrete way and will enhance financial stability and enable your community to improve access to funding,” Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Carolyn Bennett stated in a letter to NSTC.