An important step in a historic treaty negotiation involving First Nations in this region will be taken next week.
The Canim Lake Band near 100 Mile House is one of four Northern Secwepemc (Shuswap) te Qelmucw (NStQ) bands involved in the BC Treaty Process since 1993.
The treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments cover a wide range of issues surrounding territory, governance and resources, and are seen by some as a path toward greater self-determination for First Nations.
Close to 600 of the NStQ’s 2,500 members are eligible to vote in a referendum on Feb. 11 on whether to pursue the treaty negotiations further.
The First Nations bands include Tsq’escen’ (Canim Lake), Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek/Dog Creek), Xats’ull/Cmetem’ (Soda Creek) and T’exelc (Williams Lake).
The Northern Shuswap Tribal Council and its affiliated NStQ Treaty Group is holding the Agreement-in-Principle (AiP) referendum on Feb. 11 with community polling stations open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. NStQ band members 18 years of age and older are eligible to vote at their own bands’ polling station only.
The referendum will decide whether the NStQ membership wishes to continue into the final negotiations stage (Stage 5) of the six-stage made-in-BC Treaty Process. It is not a vote on the Treaty itself.
The yes-or-no question is: “Do you support the recommendation of the NStQ Leadership Council to proceed to Final Agreement Negotiations?”
Stage 5 can take anywhere from three to five years to complete, says an NStQ spokesperson.
“Once a ‘final agreement’ is negotiated, the NStQ membership will be holding a final vote whether to accept the treaty, before the ‘Implementation’ (Stage 6) can begin,” says Brad McGuire, the Northern Shuswap Treaty Society’s communications co-ordinator.
“The NStQ Leadership feels they need the support of the community members themselves, before moving forward in the process. They truly want this to be a ‘people’s process’ and not driven by only the governments of Canada, B.C. and the NStQ leadership.”
Over the past year, the treaty teams have held community meetings, urban meetings (for those members who live elsewhere – Vancouver, Kamloops, and Prince George), and more recently in the past couple of months have been meeting directly with families in their homes to provide as much information about the treaty as possible, McGuire says, adding “So members cast an informed vote on Feb. 11.”
Referendum results will be available after 10 a.m. on Feb. 12.
In a video posted on the NStQ Treaty Facebook page, leaders from the four First Nations involved discuss the importance of the negotiations, which include territorial claims.
“Our lands have always sustained us,” Canim Lake Band Chief Mike Archie says in the video clip. “Our lands hold the story and our lands define who we are.”
The five polling stations are Canim Lake Indian Band (Tsq’escen’) – Canim Lake Band Administration Building; Williams Lake Indian Band (T’exelc) – Elizabeth Grouse Gymnasium; Soda Creek Indian Band (Xats’ūll) – Soda Creek Health Station; Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe Creek/Dog Creek Indian bands) – Rosie Seymour Gymnasium and Dog Creek Community Centre.