June 30, 2015 - 12:55 PM
PENTICTON -The Penticton Indian Band took a big step forward in its ability to self govern as the band formally announced their participation in the First Nations Land Management Regime today, June 30.
The regime will allow the Penticton band opportunity to opt out of 32 land-related sections of the Indian Act in order to develop their own laws with respect to land, the environment and most resources.
The band made the announcement at the Outma Sqilx'w Cultural School on the Penticton Indian Reserve, with several dignitaries present including Penticton Band Chief Jonathan Kruger, Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas and Westbank First Nations Chief Robert Louie. Band Chief Kruger was presented with the adhesion document, which adds the Penticton band to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.
A visibly emotional Chief Kruger says participation in the regime provides 'an excellent opportunity for our community to do things our way.'
“The days of my having to go to Vancouver to sign off are past now. I’m really excited about our future. We’re going to do this, we’re going to move ahead in a more streamlined fashion,” he says, noting the band’s struggle in the past with 'challenges faced by the Indian Act.'
Currently 90 First Nation bands are operating or developing land codes under the regime, 47 of which are in British Columbia.
“This is an important opportunity for the Penticton Indian Band to gather more control over their own future, it’s basically an introductory process where there has to be community consultation in order to create a land code,” Okanagan-Coquihalla MP Dan Albas says, adding the regime would see the band operate more like a municipality, making decisions for themselves rather than having to go through the Indian Act and the federal government.
Albas says it will streamline the way the band does business, allowing them to react to a business opportunities without delay. He adds the new agreement will not allow the band to sell land, but it will allow them to lease without getting Ottawa’s approval.
“You wouldn’t see that in the City of Penticton. There’s a process for development, and there will be a process for development on the Penticton Indian Band, where it will be community-consultation driven. There will be a land building code that everyone is aware of and the decisions will be made and taken here on the Penticton Indian Band,” Albas says.
Albas says the regime agreement wasn’t as far reaching as the one signed with the Westbank First Nation, but will exempt the Penticton band from 32 sections of the Indian Act as long as they adhere to the process laid out in the regime framework.
“This is a great example of the federal government moving out of the way and letting local bands take control of their own destiny.” Albas says, adding the signing of the agreement marks the beginning of a road ahead for the band to develop its own land code, a process that could take up to two years.
Westbank First Nation Chief Robert Louie calls today a 'momentous occasion' for the Penticton band. He says the band traditionally looked after its resources and governed itself prior to European civilization coming into the territory and calls the signing 'an opportunity to resume full jurisdiction over your reserves lands and your future.'
“Resource management has been part of our culture. For years, our inherent rights were decided by bureaucrats and bean counters. With this, we resume control over resources and land without outside interference,” he says.
Louie notes of the bands currently part of the regime, not one has indicated a desire to return to the old ways of the Indian Act.
The Penticton Indian Band has the largest landbase of any First Nations band in B.C., with 46,200 acres.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015