Band clarifies process with Ottawa to remove explosives

Okanagan Indian Band members say explosives prevent economic development opportunities

The Okanagan Indian Band is urging Ottawa to live up to its responsibilities.

The band has been pushing the Department of National Defence to clean up explosives on reserve land previously used for military training.

“Recent media coverage of the Okanagan Indian Band’s efforts to clear their lands of unexploded ordnances included a statement from the DND that misleads the public about DND’s contractual obligations to clean training areas once they are no longer being used for those purposes,” said Chief Byron Louis.

Recently, DND told Global News: “To support the Okanagan Indian Band’s future development plans, DND will continue to assess and initiate clearances once the band has finalized its economic development implementation plan and timelines.”

However, Louis says there is no requirement for the band to submit an economic development implementation plan or timelines prior to DND clearing the lands of explosives.

“In the original  agreement which allowed the DND to use the OKIB lands for training purposes the contract clearly states that, ‘the permittee (DND) undertakes to repair all damage done to the land and to fill all holes for the protection of stock and riders,’” he said.

“Further, DND agrees to remove, or dispose of all duds from the permit area at the termination of any firing practice.’ Subsequent numerous agreements, all signed by the DND state their obligation to remove UXO from OKIB lands.”

The federal government recently settled a legal dispute with Aquilini Development over land south of Vernon that was used for training.

The company is currently clearing explosives from the property and it has applied to the City of Vernon to subdivide.b“The failure to clear OKIB’s reserve lands of unexploded ordnances continues to impact the Band’s potential uses for those lands,” said Louis.