The Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen board voted unanimously Thursday to sign a protocol agreement with area Indian bands.
The decision has been a long time coming, after the board decided against signing, because of wording in the agreement in past years.
RDOS CEO Bill Newell urged the board to go ahead this time saying from a legal point of view, lawyers would advise not to, but he sees no harm in moving ahead.
“I say go ahead and sign it, I think there is benefit to working with First Nations,” he said.
Discussion on the protocol agreement came up again at a community forum for the RDOS and local Indian bands in March. At the time, the planned agenda was replaced with said discussion.
RDOS Board Chair Dan Ashton agreed to bring the matter back to the board.
The situation began when the 2005-2008 board, comprised of mostly different members at the time, identified it as a priority to establish a better working relationship with First Nations within the regional district.
Following community summits in 2006-2007, two documents, an accord, which spoke to a relationshio of mutual respect, and protocol , which established specific parameters to a new form of governance, were established.
After the board endorsed the agreement on June 21, 2007, there was meant to be a signing later that day, which never took place.
In 2008, the RDOS heard word the Penticton Indian Band. Lower Similkameen Indian Band and Osoyoos Indian Band were interested in signing.
But following the request ,some members of the board expressed concerns about wording that spoke to aboriginal rights and title, and the ceremony was postponed.
An amended protocol was subsequently agreed to by the board, but not by the PIB and was never signed according to staff reports.
Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino remembers when this came out and being told by a legal representative not to move ahead with it, because it’s not a local issue.
But as long as we are safe today, I am not adverse to this, she said on Thursday.
The RDOS board further discussed the Upper Similkameen Indian Band jumping in as well.
Ashton said the board would inform them of what transpired.
PIB Chief Jonathan Kruger said he was pleased to hear the news.
“I am pretty happy that the regional district passed the resolution to support the protocol agreement, because I think it’s important that our community work together, so we can be great and good,” he said.
"We will have to sit down and fix some dates to do a signing ceremony."