Treaty clash sparks protests
- Treaty clash sparks protests
By Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
August 5, 2011 2:43 AM
First Nations protests over interpretation of 160-yearold treaties could spread to southern Vancouver Island, Tsartlip Chief Wayne Morris said Thursday.
"Some of us are talking about that right now," said Morris, who was supporting two days of demonstrations in Port McNeill by the Kwakiutl First Nation.
Ten Vancouver Island bands signed Douglas Treaties with Canada from 1850 and 1854, but say promises are being ignored. "All the land was supposed to be protected for our use according to the Douglas Treaties, but we were put on reserves and the land around us all belongs to other people," Morris said.
In Port McNeill Thursday, about 100 Kwakiutl members and supporters peacefully blocked the Quadra Queen ferry for about 75 minutes, B.C. Ferries spokesman Darin Guenette said. "There were First Nations members on the ground and people in about five war canoes," he said.
Port McNeill RCMP detachment commander Sgt. Phil Lue said protesters were polite. "We were just there to make sure people were safe and at the end they thanked us and gave us a round of applause - you don't get that very often."
The group moved to the Forests Ministry office, where staff accepted a letter to Premier Christy Clark and Forests Minister Steve Thomson.
The band wants to meet with the government this month, said Kwakiutl Chief Coreen Child. "The community is feeling really charged and empowered, but now we want to create space for them to respond to our actions," she said.
If concerns are not addressed, protests could escalate and include blocking the Nimpkish River Bridge, cutting off access to Port McNeill, said Chief Bob Chamberlin, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs vicepresident. Too often government uses the right words "but when the rubber hits the road, it's all ice," he said.
Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould said the province "has failed to meet its legal duties to consult with and accommodate the Kwakiutl."
She called on the government to immediately cease forestry operations in Kwakiutl territory.
"We did not agree to surrender our aboriginal title and rights when we signed the Douglas Treaty," says the letter to Clark.
Aboriginal Relations Ministry spokeswoman Maria Wilkie said B.C. respects the Douglas Treaties and consults with First Nations on all decisions which affect traditional territory.
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