B.C. First Nation narrowly rejects self-government, land and resource treaty
The Lheidli T'enneh First Nation initials a $37 million treaty on May 5, 2018. Members have since rejected the treaty in a vote of 185 to 137. (Twitter/BC Treaty Commission)
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - A British Columbia First Nation has voted against a treaty proposal from the B.C. and Canadian governments that would have included self-government and more than 43 square kilometres of land.
Five weeks of balloting on two questions wrapped up Saturday with members of the Prince George-based Lheidli T'enneh First Nation voting 185 to 137 against the treaty.
Along with the land, which included about 11 square kilometres within the City of Prince George, the treaty offered a lump sum payment of $37.1 million, resource revenue sharing, operational funding and $16.7 million to implement the pact.
None of these benefits is available without the treaty but a news release from the First Nation says its Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and gather will continue within its 43,000 square kilometre traditional territory stretching from Vanderhoof east to the Alberta boundary.
In a separate vote, Lheidli T'enneh members also narrowly rejected a proposed constitution, which would have removed the First Nation from the Indian Act and established self-government.
Band Chief Dominic Frederick says the result of both votes is disappointing, but he intends to honour the wishes of the people.
“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,” says Frederick.
A vote of 50 per cent plus one was required for the treaty to pass.
It has been under negotiation since 1993 and members voted on it for the first time in 2007, narrowly accepting the constitution and self-government portion, but refusing the provisions containing the lump sum payment, land and resource proposals.
That led to an extensive internal review and members of the First Nation resolved to resume negotiations, leading to the latest result.
Scott Fraser, B.C.'s minister of indigenous relations and reconciliation, says the province will continue to work government-to-government with Lheidli T'enneh on the issues of reconciliation and self-determination.
“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,” Fraser says in a news release.