Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde has welcomed a decision by the federal government to officially involve First Nations in the negotiations currently underway with the United States to modernize the Columbia River Treaty.
Canada and the United States currently have negotiations underway to modernize the Columbia River Treaty, first signed in 1964 to develop hydroelectric power in the Columbia River Basin and control flooding. Decisions made under the Treaty have had many adverse effects on the First Nations involved, including damage to village and burial sites and damage to fish stocks, a traditional food source with cultural and spiritual significance.
Ktunaxa Nation, Secwepemc Nation, and Syilx Okanagan Nation have had some input into the negotiations, but on April 26, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland announced that representatives from the First Nations will participate as official observers in the negotiations. Chiefs-in-Assembly called for such a move in resolution 23/2018, First Nations Participation in the Re-negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty, passed by consensus at the AFN’s 2018 Annual General Assembly. The next round of negotiations takes place June 19-20 in Washington, D.C.
“The decision to include the Ktunaxa Nation, Secwepemc Nation, and Syilx Okanagan Nation in the negotiations on the Columbia River Treaty is an important and necessary step,” said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. “Canada must respect the right of First Nations to be involved in any activities that affect their rights and their traditional territories.”
“I have advocated for Canada to extend an official role for First Nations in negotiations of international agreements, and the AFN passed a national resolution supporting direct First Nation participation in Columbia River Treaty,” Chief Bellegarde added. “Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland has done the right thing by including these First Nations. This should be part of a broader move to involve First Nations in all national and international negotiations where our rights can be impacted. There is the added benefit that involving First Nations leads to better decisions and better outcomes.”