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Sliammon protesters seek injunction to halt upcoming treaty vote

A group of protesters that blocked a treaty ratification vote on B.C.'s Sliammon reserve are seeking an injunction to halt the next vote rescheduled for July 10.

Protesters released a statement on June 16 when they blocked the initial vote, outlining their concerns over council spending and the eligibility of voters.

"We've been playing in an uneven field and the government has been stacking things in order to get a 'yes' vote," said protester Brandon Peters.

The Sliammon Treaty Society and the Sliammon chief and council have an injunction against the protesters that prevents the group from blocking the polling station for the rescheduled vote.

In a statement released yesterday, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak reiterated her support for the treaty vote.

"The Tla'amin Nation and Sliammon Treaty Society have worked for many years to negotiate a treaty with British Columbia and Canada," she said. "There has been an extensive process to communicate with the community about all elements of a treaty, including what it would mean to move out from under the Indian Act."

The issue has caught the attention of other First Nations bands in treaty negotiations across British Columbia. Arthur Manuel, a former Neskonlith chief, along with some Tsawwassen band members joined the protesters in saying the treaty negotiation process has been flawed.

Maa-nulth First Nations, a Treaty Society of five First Nations on Vancouver Island, declared their support for the Sliammon treaty vote. Maa-nulth and Tsawwassen are the only two First Nations that have ratified treaty agreements with the province of the 60 nations in negotiation.

If the Sliammon treaty ratification passes it will provide 8,300 hectares of land, self-governance and an approximate $30 million payment over 10 years.

Protesters seeking the injunction and the Sliammon Treaty Society will be in B.C. Supreme Court Monday for the ruling.

Ariel Fournier is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver.

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