The Okanagan Nation Alliance has filed legal action challenging the province’s treaty process.
“This lawsuit should come as no surprise to the province,” said 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.”
The ONA’s legal action is the result of the province’s decision to sign an Incremental Treaty Agreement with the Ktunaxa Nation Council to transfer approximately 241 hectares of land near Nakusp in the Arrow Lakes area as part of an early transfer of lands that will form part of a final treaty.
The ONA says the province did not consult with them before singing 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 ONA made the decision to file the legal action after attempting 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,” said 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 B.C.: 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 of the United States.
The communities of the ONA include thousands of members who are Sinixt descendants who historically lived in the Arrow Lakes area.