By Frank Larue
The Stó:lo Nation is not happy with the treaty signed between the Yale First Nation and the BC Government. The core issue is salmon fishing in the Fraser Canyon. The Stó:lo have been fishing the area for decades and are outraged that the government would deal directly with the Yale First Nation and not the Tribal Council. The Stó:lo maintain that the Yale Band is part of the Stó:lo Nation, but the Yale Band denies such a claim.
Stó:lo Grand Chief Clarence Pennier expressed the Tribal Council’s anger in a press release, saying, “The ministers need to understand that Aboriginal title and fishing rights in the Fraser Canyon belong to all 24 Stó:lo First Nations, not just the Yale Indian Band alone.”
The treaty signed on February 5th, gave the 150 Member Yale First Nation $12.9 million to improve their economy and land compensation. The Stó:lo tribal council will launch legal action to dissolve the treaty since the Campbell government chose not to deal with the Tribal Council. They feel betrayed that negotiations weren’t held with all parties involved. The treaty was negotiated without the Tribal Council’s input and signed before they could express their opposition to its contents.
The Federal Government has ordered an inquiry to explain the decline of salmon in the Fraser River, and Liberal Chief Justice Bruce Cohen who is in charge of the inquiry may have created a new problem with the treaty. Conservative MP John told The Province, “Mr. Justice Cohen has to investigate the Fraser Canyon fishery and its impact on migrating sockeye. These treaties represent constitutional change, so if Justice Cohen decides changes need to be made in the canyon, then the Yale treaty will tie his hands before his hearing starts.”
All of this makes the treaty with the Yale First Nation a very questionable deal, with shades of the Tsawassen First Nation treaty of 2009 that was signed, sealed, and delivered before all issues were clarified. The Stó:lo Tribal Council are willing to settle in court, which means ratification of the treaty will be on hold until the judicial system decides who is in the right. In the meantime, the lack of salmon in the Fraser River will cast a dark shadow over the proceedings.