In a surprise development, a treaty that was celebrated by the B.C. government when it was first signed in 2013 has been rejected by the Yale First Nation, just months before it was to go into effect.
In a brief statement Thursday, the small band of about 150 members said it would not be following through on implementation – the final stage in treaty-making.
"The Yale final agreement has critical flaws that cannot be resolved within the current B.C. treaty process," the statement said. "We want to look ahead to how we can meet the real, pressing needs of our people, in a relationship of mutual co-operation and respect."
Yale Chief Ken Hansen, who was recently elected to lead the band – located in the Fraser Canyon north of Hope – declined to answer questions.
B.C. Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad said he is still hopeful the treaty can be saved.
"We are looking forward to sitting down with them to understand better the issues they have and to hopefully find a path to resolution," Mr. Rustad said.
He said he wasn't sure what objections had been raised.
"We need to explore the issues with Yale," the minister said. "This is a process that went through about 60 community meetings within the Yale Nation, so people are well informed. It was ratified by the community. It was ratified, of course, in legislation passed by the province and federal government. So there was an extensive process that led to this."
The agreement was under negotiation for many years and was first signed in 2010, when Ottawa and B.C. heralded it as the third treaty to emerge from the province's treaty process. The deal, which was due to be implemented in April, would have given the Yale First Nation more than $12-million and control of nearly 2,000 hectares of land.
While the treaty was endorsed in a vote by band members, it was unpopular with the neighbouring Sto:lo Nation because it would have given the Yale band control over access to traditional fishing camps. The B.C. Wildlife Federation also objected to the treaty because it gave the band a guaranteed share of the Fraser River sockeye run, which the BCWF said set a troubling precedent.