Okanagan Nation Territory/Westbank British Columbia: The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) is exploring launching a comprehensive set of legal and political actions as a result of the Clark Government’s announcement on April 9 of an “incremental treaty agreement” with the Ktunaxa Nation. The agreement seeks to transfer 242 hectares of land at “Wensley Bench” to Ktunaxa, despite the fact that the Province has clear notice of ONA Territorial and Title and Rights interests with respect to the lands that are the subject of the agreement. The lands are in an area where, amongst other things, there are traditional village sites, harvesting practices, and heritage sites of significant importance to the ONA.
“I have seen a lot of despicable actions by the Province over my decades as a leader of the Okanagan Nation. This action by the Clark Government is as bad as it gets. It reflects an arrogant pattern by this Government in its dealings with First Nations of doing things out of pure political expedience,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair of the ONA. ”This agreement was signed and announced by the Clark Government even though the most basic legal requirements are not being observed. They offended our People, and ignored our Title and Rights, simply so that the appearance of making progress with First Nations could be peddled prior to the election. Well, instead of progress they have created a sense of outrage and set the stage for potential conflict that will be felt throughout this region”, he added.
The Clark Government went ahead and signed the agreement despite the following facts:
- The Province never met with the ONA or its member communities to discuss the matter despite repeated requests for meetings.
- The Province never replied to letters sent by the ONA and a number of its member communities which laid out concerns with the proposed agreement.
- The Province never engaged in any consultation or accommodation with the ONA or its member communities concerning the proposed agreement, even though the Province itself acknowledged in writing that it needed to undertake consultation.
“We never seek to take action of this nature, and it is especially regrettable when it involves another First Nation. However, the Clark government has perpetuated a disastrous First Nations policy across the Province that is driven by generating a flurry of bogus partisan political announcements. When this agreement was announced, the Clark Government said it would support economic development and job creation. Well, if the recipe for economic development and job creation is needlessly inflaming an already volatile situation while heightening economic uncertainty throughout the region, then the Clark Government continues to lead the race to the bottom”, said Grand Chief Phillip.
The Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) was formed in 1981 as the inaugural First Nations government in the Okanagan which represents the 8 member communities: Okanagan Indian Band, Upper Nicola Band, Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Lower Similkameen Indian Band Upper Similkameen Indian Band, and the Colville Confederated Tribes on issues of common concern. Each community is represented by their Chief or Chair .through the ONA Chiefs Executive Council (CEC).
For More Information Contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, ONA Chairman
Okanagan Nation Alliance
T: (250) 490-5314
Media enquiries contact:
T: (250) 707-0095 Ext. 120
Cell: (250) 862-6866