Yale Chief Bob Hope at the final agreement signing of the Yale First Nation Treaty on April 13.

Yale Chief Bob Hope at the final agreement signing of the Yale First Nation Treaty on April 13.

Last ditch effort to stop Yale treaty

It went through the B.C. legislature two years ago, but the Yale Treaty bill still has to be ratified in the House of Commons

Sto:lo leaders flew to Ottawa from Chilliwack this week to try to stop the federal government from ratifying the Yale First Nation treaty.

The final agreement of the Yale treaty was signed in B.C. on April 13, marking the third treaty to emerge from the B.C. Treaty Process.

Once the treaty officially comes into effect, the Yale economy will finally be “kick-started” as partnerships are forged with business and tourism ventures, said Yale Chief Robert Hope.

“I really believe this place will be a better place to live,” the Yale Chief told The Progress. “It will be better for natives and non-natives; for residents and non-residents.”

He said the effective date for the treaty could be 2015.

About 80 of the 150 registered Yale members actually live in Yale, a small community north of Hope.

“The other half live in places like Chilliwack or Mission,” Hope said.

The treaty was approved by the B.C. legislature two years ago, but the Yale Treaty bill still has to be ratified in the House of Commons before it becomes law.

One of the outstanding issues for Sto:lo leaders is about access to traditional fishing camps, as well as burial grounds on a stretch of the Fraser River in the Fraser Canyon between Spuzzum and Yale.

“The fishery is of significant importance to the Sto:lo people,” said Doug Kelly of the Sto:lo Tribal Council. “It always has been, and it always will be.”

This is precisely where the Yale and Sto:lo positions are still at odds, Kelly said, and it could very well end up in court.

“If blood is shed,” Kelly was quoted in the Progress, it will be at the hands of provincial and federal government officials for ratifying the Yale treaty.

Every time the subject of fishing in the Fraser Canyon comes up publicly, the spectre of violence has been raised by Sto:lo leadership.

The two sides have been effectively at an impasse for years, unable to reach any common ground, even efforts with a professional mediator, Vince Ready, failed to produce results.

Grand Chief Kelly was in Ottawa on Tuesday, as was Sto:lo Nation head Joe Hall, trying to convince MPs not to ratify the treaty.

“If I heard (B.C. Treaty Commission chief commissioner) Sophie Pierre correctly yesterday at the Parliamentary Standing Committee then she believes that 10,000 Sto:lo hold a veto over 150 Yale,” Kelly wrote on his Facebook page. “Given that Yale borrowed funds to negotiate a treaty then Canada should ratify their treaty. Regardless of Parliament, the Sto:lo have Section 35 constitutionally protected rights.

“Apparently, it is okay with Sophie that the Sto:lo will have to beg, borrow, raise funds to fight in court for our constitutional rights.”

Sto:lo leaders say there are about 10,000 on- and off-reserve Sto:lo, and they have been asked to check in with Yale officials when entering Yale territory. Some have expressed outrage about the prospect of that requirement for the past several years.

They’re not content with the “gatekeeper” role Yale will play post-treaty, and have said they will defy RCMP or DFO officers if they have to protect what they say are constitutionally protected rights.

“When there has been a disagreement in the past between DFO and our folks, we have not been afraid to stand up for our rights,” said Kelly.

But Yale leadership defends the check-in requirement upon arrival.

“A big concern for us every summer is knowing who is on the land,” said Hope.

When people arrive at fish camp, most will make a fire. But during the hottest part of the summer, there’s increased risk of forest fire, for example. That’s part of why they need to control it, the Yale chief said.

“We’d be responsible if there was a fire and that could get very expensive.”

Sto:lo leaders have always contended Yale was historically a Sto:lo community, and they made that argument in Ottawa this week as well.

Kelly called the Yale, Sto:lo “brothers and sisters.”

The Sto:lo even sought a written agreement within the treaty that would assure them access to dry-rack fishing sites, burial grounds and other sacred sites.

But the Yale leader disagreed that his nation is part of the Sto:lo, and argued that Sto:lo communities could have had their own treaty.

“What they were proposing was right off the radar,” Hope said.

On the Yale First Nation website, the home page states that Yale is an independent nation.

“We are an independent First Nation, standing apart from both Sto:lo Nation, and the Nlakapamux,” reads a section at www.yalefirstnation.ca.

Hope has a message for Sto:lo leadership.

“Don’t hold us back. Give us some encouragement.”

The Sto:lo were assured they’d get “reasonable” access, but they argue they have constitutionally protected rights to fish, even in the canyon.

“No one can own the river,” Chief Hope underlined. “Sto:lo fishermen come up the river in their boats. So do the sport fishers. No one is going to stop them. We are not preventing them. What this treaty means is that we will no longer be looked after by Indian Affairs.”

The Yale government will govern, he said, but no one is stopping the Sto:lo from exercising their rights.

“Yale is a progressive community. We are looking straight ahead, we’re not looking back. We’re making laws, not breaking them.”

Yale officials want to counter any assertion that they will restrict people unfairly from accessing their land, underlined the chief.

“We will not be arbitrarily picking who can and cannot come onto our land,” said Hope, although he could see restrictions placed on known pedophiles, for example. “All they have to do is say hello.”

Chief Hope said the Yale have been working to forge agreements with the “grass roots” Sto:lo members rather than the leadership, and said there are only a handful of Sto:lo families who still set up fish camps in the Canyon.

“We’re looking to build these relationships.”

They’ll also be working with DFO as they manage navigable waters, but the federal fisheries officials have no jurisdiction on the land, “especially the Yale First Nation treaty land,” he points out.

But between the two levels of government, a very orderly and well managed fishery can be the results.

“I can see a good, safe fishery being managed here,” said Hope.

One of the Yale projects for safety and emergency preparedness is creating a GPS map of all the Yale fishing sites, campsites and trail system in the area.

“Sometimes there are disputes and people will call the Yale band office or RCMP. Now they would know exactly where to go because of the GPS mapping.”

“So how is the Yale treaty going to affect the whole Fraser Canyon?” he said.

“It’s going to be a much safer place to be.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Twitter.com/chwkjourno

Just Posted

Chilliwack Fire Department on scene at a house fire on Boundary Road and No. 4 Road on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (David Seltenrich/ Facebook)
Fire crews respond to house fire on border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Flames, dark smoke reported coming from front of house when crews arrived

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

Pig races at the 147th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 10, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack Fair plans in-person event for 149th annual exhibition

Will be first large-scale, in-person event in over a year, provided regulations continue as planned

Vivian Le is one of two local recipients of a Beedie Luminaries scholarship.
Chilliwack students overcome adversity to win Beedie Luminaries scholarships

Sardis secondary’s Vivian Le and G.W. Graham’s Alisa Gusakova are among 112 students receiving money

Crews work on the construction of Stitó:s Lá:lém Totí:lt near the Vedder River on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack School District shuffling catchment areas as Stitó:s Lá:lém totí:lt construction continues

SD33 is looking for public input about proposed catchment and feeder school options

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read