Band members voted 185-137, over a five-week voting period, against ratifying the agreement.
“Of course it is disappointing, but the people have spoken and we must honour their wishes,” said Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dominic Frederick. “This decision is entirely a Lheidli T’enneh choice. We must now try and move forward with the limited resources and opportunities available while we remain under the Indian Act. Regardless of this outcome, we are here to stay.”
A vote on a proposed Lheidli T’enneh constitution, that would have removed the First Nation from the jurisdiction of the Indian Act and established its government under the treaty, was defeated by a 175-147 vote.
“Everyone had the opportunity to make an informed decision,” said Tamara Seymour, community engagement manager. “We spent the last three years working hard to update the agreement and ensure potential participants in the treaty understood its terms as well as the pros and cons.”
The treaty had been under negotiation since 1993. Negotiations were originally completed in October 2007 but the First Nation narrowly defeated the agreement in a subsequent vote. Following an extensive internal review, members of the First Nation decided to try again.
The treaty would have provided 4,330 hectares of land owned by the First Nation as well as defined constitutional self-government powers. A financial package, which included a lump sum payment of $37.1 million as well as $502,000 per year resource revenue sharing, $2.3 million annual operating funding and $16.7 million to implement the treaty, was also rejected.
None of these benefits are available without the treaty. Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and gather within the 43,000 square kilometre traditional territory would have been protected under the treaty.