Sinixt debate lands at council

Nelson council is looking for guidance from the Regional District of Central Kootenay as it ponders whether to include the Sinixt Nation in a new First Nations protocol for the city.

  • Feb. 22, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Nelson council is looking for guidance from the Regional District of Central Kootenay as it ponders whether to include the Sinixt Nation in a new First Nations protocol for the city. 

A draft protocol — essentially an etiquette guide for dealing with First Nations groups — presented to council Monday only mentioned the Ktunaxa Nation and Okanagan Nation Alliance. City manager Kevin Cormack told council staff were following provincial and federal guidelines, which don’t recognize the Sinixt.

But councillor Kim Charlesworth said those guidelines are based on the government’s claim the Sinixt are extinct, which doesn’t reflect “what the reality is in our jurisdiction.” 

“I don’t think we need to perpetuate that error,” she said.

But councillor Marg Stacey said she’s seen no evidence the Sinixt were in the Nelson area, and doesn’t want council to get involved in the issue until it’s settled with the federal government. 

“For good or for bad, I don’t think we should step in it,” she said.

Mayor John Dooley agreed, suggesting council could add the Sinixt to its policy if federal guidelines change. 

But councillor Donna Macdonald pointed out the city’s policy is meant to cover any First Nations that traditionally lived or passed through the Kootenay region, not just the Nelson area.

“There were Arrow Lakes people here,” she said. “So it seems to me we’re doing a disservice by only recognizing the two nations we’re comfortable with.”

Council eventually decided to put off the decision until Dooley speaks to the members of the RDCK working on the current Kootenay Treaty Advisory Committee, to see what their perspective is on the Sinixt question. 

The Sinixt have launched a constitutional challenge to logging operations on Perry Ridge, arguing they should have been consulted before BC Timber Sales awarded a logging license to a Kaslo company for the contentious area. A ruling on the claim is expected Friday.