If we can work together we can achieve great things.
That thought kept running through your editor’s mind last Wednesday as I sat in on a community-to-community forum held at the Sportsplex.
The meeting was one of a series of C2C forums that have been held in the North Thompson Valley since 2010.
Present at last Wednesday’s forum were about 30 representatives from the districts of Clearwater and Barriere, Simpcw First Nations, Thompson-Nicola Regional District and several of its electoral areas, as well as Yellowhead Mining and BC Hydro.
It was interesting listening to the discussion around the table. The representatives from the various local governments would talk about a particular issue making use of the same set of rules, but each with a slightly different perspective. Then the Simpcw reps would speak up and it would be about the same issue but from a totally different perspective, because they are subject to a very different set of rules.
Our non-aboriginal local governments are basically set up under provincial legislation. First Nation governments such as Simpcw First Nation, on the other hand, are set up through federal legislation such as the Indian Act.
Different sets of rules – and in some cases, no rules, or at least the rules that are still evolving.
For many years in this country, First Nations peoples essentially had no rights.
That is changing, but gradually. What rights the First Nations peoples will end up with on such issues as land claims are still undefined.
A case in point is defining traditional territories. According to reports from band councilor Fred Fortier during Wednesday’s forum, Chief Nathan Matthew is working on a protocol procedure on how the band will deal with overlapping land claims by neighboring bands. Apparently the Simpcw have put a great deal of effort during the past decades into defining what their traditional territory is by documenting oral traditions and stories, researching archeological sites and so on. From Fortier’s comments, it seems some other bands have not been so rigorous.
One outcome has been that if, for example, a mining company wants to develop a major new project, it could find two, three, four or more bands claiming that site as part of their traditional territories.
Some of the claims could be legitimate, others less so. In the meantime, progress gets delayed and opportunities move elsewhere.
First Nation and non-First Nation peoples in the Valley might operate under different sets of rules but we all need to work together.
Communicating through mechanisms such as the community-to-community forums is a good step in that direction.