News » Whistler

Mount Currie asks British Columbians to ignore treaty referendum



A local First Nations leader is asking nearby communities to ignore next month's mail out referendum on native treaty issues, calling it a farce.

"We would ask all our neighbours not to participate," said Lyle Leo, CEO of the Mount Currie band near Pemberton.

"We have chosen to develop positive working relationships with all our neighbours and all levels of government in the Sea to Sky Corridor and (are asking them) to disregard this referendum."

The Mount Currie band, also known as the Lil’wat Nation, is not part of the treaty negotiation process, nor are approximately 30 per cent of all First Nations communities in B.C. But the outcome of the referendum will affect all First Nations people in the province, said Leo.

"It will ultimately affect us even if we aren't in the treaty process," he said.

The referendum was designed to guide the province's approach to treaty negotiations. After more than a decade the treaty process hasn’t produced an actual treaty.

Instead of solving the issues, some consider the government’s eight-part questionnaire to be an overlap of work which has already been done.

"We felt that what it is that they're seeking... the principles to guide negotiations, are already in place," said Kathryn Teneese, an executive member of the First Nations Summit.

There is skepticism among native leaders that the average person in B.C. will not be able to understand or appreciate the eight questions in the ballot.

"We believe that the general public at large is not fully informed and educated on the aboriginal issues directed to their relationship to the land," said Leo.

The government should have conducted a public education campaign if they were determined to go ahead with the referendum, said Teneese.

"I think that perhaps if we were going to go down this road that we should have been looking at opportunities for public education on the issues," she said.

"We are also concerned with the fact we’re talking about minority rights that are being placed before an (uninformed) majority to make a decision."

She calls the ballot a "public opinion poll" and said the government is simply passing the buck and dumping the decision of native rights on residents.

The ballots will be mailed out starting April 2 and residents have until May 15 to send the ballots back.

They will be asked to vote Yes or No to each of the following eight principles:

Do you agree that the provincial government should adopt the following principles to guide its participation in treaty negotiations?

Add a comment