The federal government talks a lot about repairing the relationship with indigenous people, but, increasingly, those words seem hollow.
Case in point is the fact that both Conservative and Liberal administrations have been negotiating with the Okanagan Indian Band since 2012 over the colonial land claim but no resolution has occurred.
And while the specifics of the talks aren’t known, it is unacceptable that the process hasn’t been completed when it’s abundantly clear that in 1865, land was taken out of the reserve and sold off to settlers moving into what is now Vernon. There was absolutely no consultation with band members at the time.
Resolving the claim would mean an infusion of cash that the band could invest in economic development activities as well as addressing critical social issues like housing.
Now it would be easy to see this as just an indigenous issue but this matter impacts the entire North Okanagan.
If the Okanagan Indian Band has the resources for economic development, they will purchase services from local businesses and create employment for non-native residents. As has been experienced elsewhere in the valley, tourists flock to indigenous businesses and while here, they use area hotels, restaurants, shops and other attractions.
It’s time for this land claim to be resolved, primarily because it’s the right thing to do.
We would urge the City of Vernon and regional district to lobby Ottawa, and for North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold to represent the band’s interests.
And local residents can do their part by writing the federal government and demanding action.