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West Kelowna  

Chiefs leave Clark's office

After occupying Christy Clark’s MLA office for six days and five nights, First Nations leaders from the Nicola Region and their supporters are moving out.

In a press event Monday afternoon Chief Aaron Sam of the Lower Nicola Indian Band, stated that the protesters would be leaving in a gesture of good faith after the province committed to a high-level meeting  to resolve ongoing concerns about bio-waste operations in the Nicola Valley.

“We have repeatedly told the province that the bio-waste operations pose a serious threat to our environment and to our Title and Rights.

“There needs to be a mediated process to resolve this situation in everyone’s interests. We are pleased that the province today has finally committed to come and meet with us to reach an agreement on a process for addressing this issue.”

The sit in started last Wednesday after Chiefs say they were unable to have an open dialogue with the province over their concerns regarding the trucking of sewage sludge from the Central Okanagan to land near Merritt.

"We decided we had no choice but to begin the occupation once it became clear that the province was refusing to take our concerns seriously,” said Upper Nicola Indian Band Chief Harvey McLeod.

“The province should have sought our consent before allowing any kind of biowaste dumping on our lands. Instead, the Province refused to give us proper information about the effects of biowaste and went ahead and allowed the operations without even consulting us.”

During the occupation RCMP members were on site both day and night ensuring the protest remained peaceful.

Cpl. Joe Duncan told Castanet there had been no issues with the demonstrators and officers wished to show their appreciation for the peaceful protest.

“Supt. Tim Head gave Chief Sam a blanket, a symbol of respect for going through these peaceful negotiations and having an open and honest dialogue.”

Although he had never seen a gesture such as this before, Cpl. Duncan did say the RCMP giving the blanket was a positive step in any negotiations and that officers respect everyone in the community.

Last week Environment Minister Mary Polak said in order to have an open dialogue protesters needed to stop their occupation of Clark’s office. Castanet will provide details of the meeting between the chiefs and the province once it becomes available.

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