An Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) referendum to commercially designate the Duck Lake reserve is happening now.
From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday (Jan. 28), OKIB members can vote in favour or against designating 52 acres of Duck Lake lands in Lake Country for the purpose of building a business park, which the band would be able to lease for economic benefit.
The OKIB has put together a video of an information meeting with Chief Byron Louis and representatives from Indigenous Services Canada and other groups. The video explains the designation and how members can vote.
“This is a very important initiative that’s being undertaken … when you look at how important economic development is in our community and having these types of opportunities available,” Louis says in the video.
Designated lands are lands that band members agree to lease for economic development purposes, including commercial, agricultural, recreational, or other purposes which are voted on by the members according to the rules of the Indian Referendum Regulation. The designation doesn’t affect the land’s reserve status.
A full list of potential uses, pending the land’s designation, can be found on the OKIB’s website.
“This isn’t the company that’s a stand-off from our community, this is a part of our community. This is the Okanagan Indian Band Group of Companies that is set up specifically for us,” Louis added.
“It’s by us, for us, and that’s for our benefit. And when you look at that, that is something that we desperately need. In all studies and statistics that we had with membership before, economic development was at the highest priority of our band.”
According to a 2020 quarterly report, conceptual designs have been produced which include commercial and residential uses, and OKIB Management Services LP secured $2.2 million from the National Business Park Infrastructure Fund for the project.
If the referendum passes, the results will be submitted to the Minister of Indigenous Services for final approval, at which point the lands can be leased.
OKIB members can deliver their ballots in person at 1240 Westside Road, next to the band office, by bringing the ballot they received in the mail along with their ID. Online voting options are also available.
For information on how to fill out your ballot, view this OKIB online resource.