B.C. Interior First Nations excluded from Columbia River Treaty talks | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. Interior First Nations excluded from Columbia River Treaty talks

A recent decision by Global Affairs Canada to exclude Interior First Nations from Columbia River Treaty renegotiations has outraged the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Shuswap Nation Council and Ktunaxa Nation Council.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

Three B.C. Interior Indigenous Nations have expressed their condemnation of a recent decision by the federal government to exclude them from participation in the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty with the United States.

The Okanagan Nation Alliance, the Shuswap Nation Council and the Ktunaxa Nation Council say in a media release issued today, May 23, they were “shocked that Global Affairs Canada would unilaterally forego an important opportunity for Prime Minister Trudeau and his Liberal government to demonstrate his commitment to rights recognition and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples of Canada.”

The Columbia River Treaty is the largest international water storage agreement between Canada and the United States and the renegotiation of the 1964 agreement are just getting underway.

The First Nations say the Columbia River Treaty has had a huge impact on Indigenous people, including the loss of village and burial sites, loss of fish populations and harvest areas, and the turning of the river into “industrial water storage reservoirs.”

They say decision marginalizes First Nations and excludes them from decisions directly affecting their title and rights, and is “blatantly inconsistent with the government’s commitments to advance reconciliation.”

“This completely unexpected and shocking unilateral decision by Minister (Chrystia) Freeland to exclude Indigenous Nations is an act of absolute treachery," Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, chair of the Syilx Okanagan Nation says in the release. "Canada has begun to replicate the aggressively destructive behaviour of President Trump against Indigenous Nations.”

Phillip calls the government's action "a fundamental betrayal of our three Nations’ Indigenous Rights."

"I’m genuinely afraid for Canada’s future economic stability if Canada lacks the courage to stand by its convictions and can so easily disregard its commitments to Indigenous Peoples," he says.

The three Nations are looking at the options available to them in response to the decision.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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