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Story Updated : June 20th
On the day of the vote (June 16th) about a dozen members opposing treaty blockaded the voting station. The story has since picked up coverage by the Globe & Mail, CBC Radio, and by the local newspaper; the Vancouver Sun is also considering covering the story.
A statement released by those protesting Treaty can be found here:
For the past month, Powell River's local community radio station (CJMP 90.1FM) has been airing the opinions and concerns of the upcoming Final Agreement regarding the Tla'amin (Sliammon, Coast Salish) People. This has been the work of the Saturday DJ Dan Zynski; the recordings can be found here:
Ep.1 covers anti-treaty // Ep.2 covers pro-treaty // Ep.3 covers anti-treaty
We are currently negotiating to cover the vote itself on Sat. June 16th, broadcasting on the ground from the poll booths. If successful, listeners can tune in here : http://blog.cjmp.ca/listen-live/ from Noon - 5pm and call the studio at 604.485.0088 with questions as the day unfolds.
Our coverage leading up to this weekend has been somewhat haphazard; though many of our radio station's volunteers are well informed about colonialism and First Nations issues, and have tried to build connections with the Nation, Treaty wasn't at the front of our minds. Independently and as a board representative, I was hoping to encourage a few new radio programs run by Tla'amin members.
However, I soon realized a huge contingent of band members opposed to Treaty for various reasons had been virtually ignored by the media, and began covering the issue and learning about it from there. A myriad of reasons exist to support and oppose treaty - but I (and we) have decided we can show solidarity while not intruding on First Nation's self-determination by keeping a lens trained on the unfolding events.
Our current goal is to broadcast live the June 16th final voting day, a day where ballots are accepted in person and when most on-reserve band members are choosing to vote - to ensure their ballots aren't tampered with. We are hoping that the precedent of independent observers for any tense, historic vote will excuse our presence on the Reserve, as the Treaty Society is understandably concerned about our presence while the polls are open. We would use this opportunity to spot any intimidation and verify the number of voters in attendence - at the behest of those Tla'amin opposed to Treaty and expecting corruption.
Blood-line favouritism and violent threats have been at play; there are bitter divisions between family members. Half the homes on Reserve display "No to Treaty" signs, the other half say "Yes." An anti-treaty member's lawn stands conspicously scorched by fire - whether it is related or not we cannot say; rocks have been thrown through windows, and people from both sides have been caught tearing one anothers signs' down. As the final day comes closer, band members increasingly refuse to speak or even be seen with our reporter (the authour of this article) - or request to speak in private over the phone instead. [edit : This has since changed for the better.]
Accusations of corruption are mostly leveled at the band office, which hands out the money provided by the Federal Government; however, since many of the same people work towards Treaty or in the various services on Reserve - these charges of corruption are leveled across the band's entire local governing structure. University educated members and the youth tend to fall on pro-treaty side, while most elders and those in more severe poverty are opposed.
The Sliammon nation has accrued some ten million dollars of debt in negotiating treaty - much of this money goes towards paying wages to treaty workers, organizing events, travel expenses, boat tours, and other such things. Many opposed to Treaty see this as buying votes, or of certain families lining their pockets with future childrens money. Yet the settlement contains financial transfers that would cover this amassed debt, and the Treaty Society has taken great pains to audit itself by 3rd parties and host regular feedback & information sessions. In contrast, the Band Office, Chief, and Council, (which support treaty) has failed in its audits and been responsible for criminal misuse of funds - but because of clauses under the Indian Act, the responsible members could not be charged.
Reviewing the Treaty document, most band members agree that the land to be placed under Tla'amin governance is satisfactory and respectful of traditional territory and use, albeit foregoing some 95% of potential land claims. Clauses around resource-revenue sharing and taxation are also favorable, providing some 12 years for the First Nation to set up its laws and tax structure and then declare its own tax rates. Larger sums of money than INAC currently provides would be transferred to the Tla'ammin over the next 12 years - but without the same dictation on how it is spent.
The Treaty Society itself admits it has been a bitter challenge to acquire these rights, and that they wish they could have acquired more benefits. They feel the political climate in 'Canada' is changing for the worse, hence the Society's urgency to settle the agreement now.
Our coverage has been unable to address whether the Treaty Document or legal documents it refers to contain clauses that would undermine Tla'amin self-government, remove social safety nets, or permit land sales and development without the peoples consent - these are the primary concerns of the anti-treaty camp.
For example, some chapters of the agreement allow Federal and Provincial law to take precedent in wildlife conservation or policing duties - but state Tla'amin law will take precedent over, say, mineral rights.
The legal language is challenging for us and it is hard to tell if it contains backdoor clauses; one suspicious clause states the Treaty Society can alter the Final Agreement for a six month period after the referendum has gone through and before the Tla'amin had elected or settled on the shape of its self-government. Is this a standard clause for minor legislative fixes? Or is it a way to alter the document to benefit a few at the expense of the many without legal repercussion? We do not know.
Finally, of the anti-treaty members that object on grounds of corruption (rather than refusing to negotiate with the settler government) many have voiced they would be satisfied if the Treaty vote was pushed back several months. This would allow time for the upcoming elections of Chief and Counsellors to come to pass, and decide the leadership such a transition would occur under.
The Treaty itself and its attached documents can be found here :
Thank you for your time and attention,
I can be reached at : dan.zynski [at] gmail [dot] com
* [Edit] Previously stated that station volunteers were not trying to engage with the Tla'amin Nation. I was incorrect.
* [Edit] We cannot confirm that the scorched lawn was directly connected to treaty feuds so the language has been changed.
* [Edit] Covering opinions of treaty has mostly been the authour's perogitive - with support and advisement from the station, some language has been changed to better reflect this.