A lawsuit has been filed by the Okanagan Nation Alliance against the province of BC, challenging the treaty process, and specifically a land transfer agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation Council.
“This lawsuit should come as no surprise to the province,” says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
“The British Columbia Treaty Process is a broken system that fails to recognize established legal principles, traditional protocols, and our title and rights. By this lawsuit, we intend to put the province’s pattern of dishonourable and unlawful conduct before the court.”
Their issues stem from the province’s decision to sign an “Incremental Treaty Agreement” with the Ktunaxa Nation Council – one that would transfer approximately 241 hectares of land near Nakusp.
They say the province did not consult with the ONA before signing the agreement, despite the fact that the area includes important village sites, hunting grounds, and cultural heritage sites for the ONA communities and their members.
“The province doesn’t have the right to simply give away our title and rights,” says Phillip.
“Overriding our title and rights to enter into an agreement with another First Nation is no way to achieve reconciliation.”
The decision to file legal action came after the ONA tried for over a year to resolve the issue directly with the province.
“We offered the province a chance to rectify the situation through a process of collaborative, respectful engagement, but the province rejected this path,” says Phillip.
“The province has shown us that it is not serious about resolving this issue, so we are taking action in court to protect our title and rights for our people and communities.”
The ONA is made up of seven First Nations in BC, including the Lower Similkameen Band, Okanagan Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Penticton Band, Upper Nicola Band, Upper Similkameen Band and Westbank First Nation, as well as the Colville Confederated Tribes in the United States.