BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Get off the sidelines

Local jurisdictions must rally support for the Okanagan Indian Band

It was a month ago that I suggested local officials come together behind the Okanagan Indian Band and push for a resolution to the more than century-old Commonage claim.

The argument at the time was a collaborative approach would provide certainty for communities wanting to purchase the CN rail corridor and develop a recreational trail.

And while there was an initial sense that municipalities may back the OKIB’s land claims bid in Ottawa, that’s clearly not the case.

As soon as the B.C. Supreme Court denied the band’s application for an injunction to stop the sale of the rail corridor Monday, representatives from the victorious municipalities and regional districts were distancing themselves from the broader issue of First Nations rights.

“It’s a federal and provincial issue and they need to deal with the band,” said James Baker, Lake Country mayor.

“We understand that they are trying to finalize claims but it’s out of our jurisdiction,” added Juliette Cunningham, Greater Vernon Advisory Committee chairperson.

Technically, the municipalities and regional districts are correct when they say that aboriginal affairs is the responsibility of Ottawa. However, we should all remember that councils and boards have interferred in senior affairs before.

As an example, municipalities pulled behind Cherryville in its fight over logging in a sensitive area and concerns about dangerous highways and meat regulations have been multi-jurisdictional.

And while all of those are important issues, nothing is more fundamental than basic human rights and righting past wrongs. The Commonage reserve was formed in 1877 and within a decade, bureaucrats erased the boundary and didn’t provide compensation to the OKIB.

Members of the band are not some separate group. We play hockey with them or work beside them. Our kids are in school together or  marriages have made us family. They are part of our overall community and we should be concerned about issues that impact them to the very root of who they are.

There are also possible implications for the communities purchasing the rail corridor if the band decides to go to the next level of court.

It’s a scenario even hinted at by the consortium putting the purchase deal together.

“Our understanding is that the specific claim over the Commonage reserve was concluded. However, land claims are ongoing across Canada and the city will respect any final decisions by Canada or the courts,” said Doug Gilchrist, with the City of Kelowna’s real estate department.

“We hope to continue to work with Okanagan Indian Band for the mutual benefit of all our citizens.”

And if the jurisdictions are truly genuine in wanting to work with the band and developing the full benefits a rail trail can provide socially and economically, then municipal councils and regional district boards should be contacting their MPs and MLAs and demanding immediate action over the Commonage claim.

The final process to purchase the rail corridor came at the same time that the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report on the impact of residential schools.

“We need reconciliation so that a broken country can become whole again,” said commissioner Marie Wilson in a CBC report.

One way for that to happen is for rank-and-file citizens, elected officials and civil servants — native and non-native — to move ahead together. That means bringing past wrongs to a close.

Let’s hope the jurisdictions involved in purchasing the rail corridor look beyond boundaries or legal limitations and do what is right.

 

Just Posted

Vernon Vipers tie it up late, lose in shootout

The Vernon Vipers dropped their Sunday matinee to the visiting Victoria Grizzlies 6-5 in a shootout.

Vernon workshop ingites holiday spirit

Children’s Christmas Gift House is Dec. 8

North Okanagan Gleaners hard at work

Annual sock, mitten, toque campaign underway

Kalamalka Rotary Dream Auction raises record amount

More than $286,000 raised at Vernon event

Vernon talent marks Canada’s Freestyle Ski Team roster

Slopestylers Elena Gaskell, Patrick Dew and Noah Morrison join Canada’s Freestyle Ski Team

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

Kal Rotary fundraiser leads to wheelchair van purchase

The $39,000 awarded by Kalamalka Rotary was instrumental in securing the $56,000 needed.

Crash closes Highway 33 south of Kelowna

Estimated time of re-opening is 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18

Vernon Ski Club shows renowned winter film

Warren Miller’s Face of Winter screens at the Vernon Towne Cinema Nov. 22

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Most Read