Sto:lo head to B.C. Supreme court over Yale Treaty

Some Sto:lo are travelling to Vancouver on Friday morning to show support for filing a statement of claim to protect their fishing rights.

A court battle could be brewing over the Yale First Nation Treaty.

Some Sto:lo members will be boarding a chartered bus Friday in Chilliwack, heading for Vancouver to show support for the filing of a statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court to protect Sto:lo people’s collective rights and title in the 5-Mile Fishery.

Grand Chiefs from Sto:lo Tribal Council and Sto:lo Nation will be joining Sto:lo community members at the law courts to mark National Aboriginal Day by rejecting the notion that any level of government can give a small community like Yale, with its 200 members, rights over fishing sites in the Fraser Canyon to the exclusion of the Sto:lo people, which number 6,000 to 10,000.

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.

Yale Chief Robert Hope told The Progress said no one will stop the Sto:lo fishermen from coming up the river to fish, but that they would have to check in upon arrival in Yale territory.

That gatekeeper role the Yale will play post-treaty is precisely the bone of contention. The ongoing political tension is the result, along with threats of violence.

Sto:lo leadership has vehemently disagreed with the notion that the Yale is an independent nation, and have stressed again and again that Yale is historically a Sto:lo community.

Sto:lo officials have expressed outrage over recent federal and provincial approval of the Yale First Nation treaty because it gives exclusive title in a stretch they call the 5-Mile Fishery, going from Spuzzum to Yale, to Yale First Nation. They are also concerned about losing access to burial grounds and other cultural sites.

Treaties are supposed to bring certainty and harmony for both native and non-native alike, but the Yale First Nation treaty does neither, said Sto:lo president and Grand Chief Joe Hall, in a release.

“The Yale treaty totally misses the mark in that regard and worse yet establishes a harmful precedent for all remaining treaty tables in B.C.,” said Hall. “All parliamentarians must take ownership of their decision to ignore the sensitive issues surrounding the Yale treaty and will be held accountable for any conflict that arises.”

The approval of the Yale treaty is seen by some as a way for officials to show that the treaty process is working.

“This is a divide and conquer strategy by the federal and provincial governments and will result in conflict between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people,” said Grand Chief Doug Kelly.

“All we are asking for is that the 5-mile fishery be a protected area where all Stó:lō including Yale could continue to exercise their rights in perpetuity. We have a long standing history of protecting our lands and rights. Our people are united and will not stand by and let this happen.”

The final agreement of the Yale Treaty which was introduced for ratification in the House of Commons on May 31, provides that the Yale First Nation will privately own about 1,966 hectares of Treaty lands, made up of 217 hectares of Yale’s former Indian reserves and 1,749 hectares of Crown lands. In addition, Yale First Nation will receive a capital transfer of $10.7 million, less any outstanding negotiation loans, and economic development funding of $2.2 million.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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