The Williams Lake Indian Band (T’exelc), which is one of the four member First Nation communities represented by the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council and its affiliated NStQ Treaty Group, held an Agreement-in-Principle (AiP) referendum on April 28 and voted in favour of proceeding to final agreement negotiations.
On Feb. 11, Canim Lake Indian Band (Tsq’escen’), Soda Creek Indian Band (Xat’sūll), and Canoe Creek/Dog Creek Indian Band (Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem) held referendums with their members voting in favour of moving forward to Stage 5 of the six-stage treaty process.
However, the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) referendum was suspended on Feb. 11, as a vocal group of protesters opposed to treaty disrupted the democratic voting process at the polling station by destroying the ballot box.
The WLIB scheduled a re-vote for April 28 to allow its community members to cast a yes or no vote on the ballot question: “Do you support the recommendation of the NStQ Leadership Council to proceed to Final Agreement Negotiations?”
The official results of the WLIB referendum, which had 385 eligible voters, saw 87 members vote in favour of moving forward and 74 voting against.
WLIB Chief Ann Louie says the vote went very well.
“We had a higher return of mail-in ballots from our out-of-town members this time around and, in fact, it almost doubled the return from the Feb. 11 vote. I am extremely proud of all of our community members who took the time to cast their votes on this very important issue.”
Noting the NSTQ vote gives the go-ahead for the treaty negotiations to move to the next stage, Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says she understands it will be four to five years before finalizing the treaty.
“I know the NSTQ is looking forward to moving on, so [the member bands] can get to self-governance. “Of course there is much to be done, and my hope is it will go smoothly and the provincial and federal governments will be transparent with third-party interests.”