One of three First Nations involved in In-SHUCK-ch treaty negotiations is reconsidering its involvement in the process.
Chief Don Harris of the Douglas First Nation said members will vote on whether to continue their involvement in the In-SHUCK-ch Treaty in a referendum on Jan. 30.
"It's basically just to finalize some of the process," he said. "(It's) ensuring, basically, that Douglas' interests are protected."
Douglas is one of four First Nation bands that began negotiations under the flag of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation in 1993. Back then it entered the B.C. Treaty Commission process alongside the Samahquam, Skatin and N'Quatqua bands.
Negotiations broke down in 1999 and let to N'Quatqua withdrawing from the In-SHUCK-ch treaty. The In-SHUCK-ch also withdrew from the process at the time. The In-SHUCK-ch Nation re-entered the process in 2002 representing the Douglas, Samahquam and Skatin.
The In-SHUCK-ch achieved Stage 4 in the treaty process, agreement in principle, in 2007. They are working on Stage 5, final agreement. That will then be presented to all the In-SHUCK-ch communities to ratify.
But before that happens, Douglas is re-evaluating whether it wants to continue.
"There's some vocal members that are opposing it but indications from the general membership haven't been indicated yet," Harris said. "They're just more looking at all the information that's been laid out for them."
The referendum comes as the Douglas First Nation has seen five of six run-of-river hydro facilities in its territory come online as part of the Harrison Hydro Limited Partnership.
Cloudworks Energy Ltd., a Vancouver-based energy company, is running the projects as part of a working relationship with the First Nation. The electricity generated will be sold to B.C. Hydro.
Harris was adamant that Douglas shares none of the hydro profits with the In-SHUCK-ch interim government, which is overseeing treaty negotiations, nor will it share its profits with any In-SHUCK-ch government after a treaty is implemented.
"We don't share any of it, it's a Douglas venture," he said. "This would be our sole discretion, whether or not we're going to contribute."
Gerard Peters, chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, feels Douglas members don't have enough information to decide whether to continue participating in treaty negotiations.
"They have had one community information session a week or two ago... and they had one scheduled for this past Saturday but that was aborted because of road conditions," he said. "They have in the meantime scheduled a new date for next weekend, on Sunday, and then the referendum of course takes place on the 30 th , which is the following weekend.
"I've got a real concern that that's insufficient time to get good and valid information in the hands of the people that are going to be participating in the referendum."
The last time a First Nation withdrew from the In-SHUCK-ch treaty process, as N'Quatqua did in 1999, Peters said that "nullified" the standing of the nation in the process and it then had to start again from ground zero. He's particularly concerned that Douglas is taking this vote when the In-SHUCK-ch are so far into the process.
"I've indicated to my people publicly that they'd have upwards of a year after I and the other two chief negotiators have initialed the final agreement," he said. "Initialing simply signals to our respective principals, in my case my people, that we're recommending the final agreement."
Peters stressed in an interview that Douglas would continue to keep its profits from Harrison Hydro LP and that all First Nations involved in negotiations would remain "autonomous" once an In-SHUCK-ch government is formed under a treaty, though he didn't make clear whether the bands under treaty would continue to exist.
"The current bands will have all of the autonomy that they enjoy now," he said.
"There will be a centralized In-SHUCK-ch Nation government, it will have provisions in it... which would allow them the authorities and the jurisdictions that they will need for land and for their programs and services and other things that governments exercise by way of their powers."