POLITICS

B.C. chief seeks injunction to remove blockade at treaty office

06/18/2012 04:21 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT
VICTORIA - Plans are underway for a re-scheduled land-claims treaty vote for the Tla'amin First Nation, even though the protest blockade that scuttled the first vote was still standing firm on Monday.

Tla'amin Chief Clint Williams said his First Nation, also known as the Sliammon First Nation, located near Powell River on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, was preparing to file an injunction application in court asking to legally remove the blockade that went up Saturday and prevented aboriginal members from voting after almost 20 years of negotiations.

"Myself personally," said Williams. "I think the sooner (we re-schedule the vote) the better. I don't want to keep to this bullying."

Aboriginal protesters who used trucks and a car to physically block up to 250 band members from participating in the treaty vote at the band's Salish Centre were still there Monday, he said.

"I guess they don't want to see our treaty office open this week," Williams said. "They've got all the doors blocked."

He said the ongoing blockade prevented at least half a dozen people who work at the Salish Centre from reporting for work.

The blockade members, who identified themselves as the Concerned Members of the Sliammon First Nation, issued a three-page document outlining their grievances.

The group raised questions on just who is allowed to enrol as a member in the band, saying some who have no blood ties to the band have been allowed to sign up to vote.

The group also alleged election and voting procedures have not been followed and raised concerns that they have no fishing or water rights.

Protesters could not be reached for comment Monday.

Williams said the blockade trampled on the democratic rights of band members to vote, whether or not they support the treaty.

The proposed treaty between the provincial and federal governments and First Nation has been nearly two decades in the making and would see the band of 1,000 people receive about 8,322 hectares of land, nearly $30 million over 10 years, self-governing powers, economic-development funding, resource revenue, forestry and fishing rights.

Powell River RCMP Staff Sgt. Andy Brinton said police are keeping watch on the blockade and have met with both sides, but there have been no moves to take it down.

"Right now, it's simply to keep the peace," he said. "We're hoping that the two groups are going to be able to come to some kind of agreement."

B.C. aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister Mary Polak said she wants to make sure any rescheduled vote includes measures to prevent further disruptions.

Polak said that in Canada, self determination has and always will be obtained through the ballot box, not through intimidation.

"Everybody should be disturbed when somebody is denied their right to vote," she said. "I can't imagine what would happen if somebody tried to blockade a provincial polling station during the next election."

Polak said the Tla'amin and the RCMP should ensure the next vote is not derailed by protests.

Federal aboriginal relations minister John Duncan issued a statement expressing his disappointment the treaty vote was disrupted.

"Our government believes that a person's right to vote should not be denied and we hope that community members use the democratic process to express their agreement or disagreement with the proposed treaty," said Duncan's statement.