Sliammon Approve Treaty Settlement Amid Controversy

By David P. Ball, Indian Country Today, July 21, 2012

Sliammon First Nation members in British Columbia have voted, with 57.5 percent in favor, to accept a treaty settlement awarding it 20,510 acres of land and $30 million over a decade.

The July 10 vote was fraught with controversy, however, as some band members boycotted the vote as illegitimate. With only 318 of the nation’s 615 members voting yes, the treaty was effectively ratified by a 10-vote margin, leading critics to promise a legal challenge.

A dozen community members had blocked the first treaty vote with trucks on June 16, warning that the proposed final agreement extinguishes for all time the nation’s rights and title to their land and accusing the election process of corruption, irregular voter enrollment and “wining and dining” residents with dinner-boat cruises to vote yes.

The vote was rescheduled to July 10, and protesters sought an injunction to halt it, but the vote went ahead anyway. The boycotters reported that dozens of tactical police arrived to enforce the election.

“Why are we negotiating what is already ours?” asked blockade spokesperson Doreen Point. “It was desperation that brought us to this blockade because we knew we’d never get [a fair vote]. I can’t allow them to sell our country, our traditional lands. I want it there for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren down the line … which they’ll never have with [this] treaty.”

Point alleged that the band’s Chief Clint Williams and other treaty proponents had bribed residents with free dinner cruises selling alcohol, enrolled non-Sliammon voters, and spent millions for their side.

Williams denied opponents’ allegations of bribery or inducement to vote yes, telling ICTMN that “democracy … got trampled on” with the blockade.

“I was pretty frustrated,” he said. “People were being told the areas we would be receiving as treaty settlement are all barren, stripped of resources and totally worthless. The lands actually have beautiful second-growth forests, and much of them are waterfront. The boat tours … were to show people the land. There’s a false accusation there—there was dinner provided but no alcohol.”

Williams told ICTMN the treaty would provide economic opportunities in a financially struggling region, and that the treaty would not infringe on Sliammon rights.

“The unemployment rate in Sliammon is fairly high,” he said. “We have some great land that could be developed and could open up some doors for the Sliammon nation…. All the rights that we have today are listed in [the treaty].”

Mary Polak, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, called the bribery allegations “outrageous” and “wild.”

“They are the form of intimidation that this group tries to use,” she told ICTMN. “They’re very ill-informed. This is not a split in the community—this is one small group who unfortunately have derailed a process for the entire community… I heard one of the protestors say that they’ll lose everything. The fact is, they gain their control over their future. It doesn’t extinguish title—it takes title into a whole new area.”

Posted on July 23, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It’s a sad day for all First Nations. If Canada can impose on Quebecers a “clarity act” which makes the threshold for a vote to separate from Canada to 60% then we as First Nations (Band Council/ Mayor, and or Hereditary Chiefs, and or Referendum) should be able to pass such a law to make is 60% to as such a decision affects to much of us, and tears us apart (this treaty wouldn’t have passed) before treaty talks are even started . In a day where people think fee simple land is ownership (The government can expropriate fee simple land) and think money is ok to compensate more stolen title land, shows the people are not properly educated yet do know what they are signing (and that this is also Extinguishment). We should also have the option to define who can vote on the treaties as under the current rules if you can prove it, if you are related many generations ago and never been to the lands, don’t know nothing about the culture (and especially in areas where there is lots of settlers, people are more assimilated, people there may not want anything to do with the culture, but just want money) the people that aren’t in that category should be able to have a referendum on what constitutes our citizenship, even if it is to keep the Indian act membership rules as the requirement if that’s what they vote for.

    Canada has already broken a modern day land claims agreement with the Nunavut, can we trust them now. we should not have to have their consent for justice, we should not be negotiating with our oppressors, we should be in the international courts, we have a better position than the Palestinians have, and the whole world is on their side except for Israel and the U.S., the Palestinians have to fight the fact that Jews where there in historically as well, whereas here no such argument is possible for the oppressor. The U.S. wont be on our side either though as they have said before (as if they were speaking for us) that “First Nations don’t want sovereignty, they just want self government”(paraphrased). We have to think about our future generations when making such decisions, and why should First Nations be the only race on the planet without our own country. The Native youth movement or a related organization should campaign to travel to all communities coming close to signing a treaty, on behalf of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs to talk to the communities (have gatherings), to ensure every member is properly educated in such an important part of all our history, that will affect our Nations forever.

    For those who think we as First Nations separating either independently, or as a Sovereign Union (Confederated {which means we can still separate from each other in the future if we wish to do so, but become one state for all BC First Nations}) is to hard due to economic/ workforce limits, we should look at other choices, of which the best one to start out would be a state in free association (for example the Associated State of Niue, which only has a population of 1,398 people, only has 260 square kilometers of land, and a $10 million GDP), and since it is a State in Free Association with New Zealand it still enjoys the right to Independence if they wish to, but untill then, external affairs and defence and economic and administrative assistance respectively, shall remain the responsibility of Her Majesty the Queen. Also we could all remain Canadian citizens and Queen Elizabeth II would be head of state in her capacity as Queen of Canada, and we would all still enjoy favorable economic terms such as market access. How we get there could be a number of ways.

    One way I believe would be the quickest and cheapest is to, go to Canadian court for Aboriginal Title land the would just comprise of a small enough area to be able to fight in court (as affordable as possible), and areas that we would surely have recognised in Canadian courts (maybe even just go for some of the curent reserve lands) and then declare independence, and go to international court for the remaining Title lands. After that we would be in a better position to negotiate a Compact of Free Association, if we wish to. I Also believe that leaving one or part of a reserve out of the Aboriginal Title claim would possibly be a good idea, as then if we do completely separate, we could still be dual citizens, and have our Indian Status, and other rights recognized in the Canadian Constitution. Maybe the location of reserve land that is kept as such could be where the church is in most reserves across Canada because those entities already enjoy a special status as tax exempt anyways, and that it could be used for Political Asylum (like a Canadian embassy whether Canada wants one there or not {whether they recognizes us enough to have an embassy on our land or not}). Why do we have to surrender our Sovereignty and Independence to our land forever, just to get out from out of the paternalistic parts of the Indian Act and grow (just to have a normal standard of living, and act like a city, and nothing else, we can do this without a treaty like Westbank First Nation, a self government agreement with a non-derogation clause), and why do we have to prove we exist (in court) when we’ve been living on this land for over 10,000 years when they can claim land just by planting a flag, this is clearly nothing more than racist colonial tactics, and cultural genocide.

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