Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, has issued the following statement in response to the outcome of the Lheidli T’enneh Treaty ratification vote:
“British Columbia respects the democratic choice of the people of Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. This democratic process demonstrates the importance of members making their voices heard.
“There is no single path to reconciliation. We will continue to work government to government with Lheidli T’enneh on long-term reconciliation and self-determination in ways that work for their community.
“We are committed to a relationship with Lheidli T’enneh First Nation, and all Indigenous peoples, based on respect and recognition and guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and case law.
“This is a unique time in the history of Canada. All partners are at the table focused on transforming the Crown-Indigenous relationship, and all options are on the table as we work together in partnership with the Indigenous peoples of B.C. toward reconciliation.”
Band members voted 185-137, over a five-week voting period, against ratifying a treaty agreement with the province and Ottawa. 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.
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.