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Stó:lō disappointed after meeting minister about Yale treaty

Leaders of the Stó:lō First Nation were disappointed following a May 26 meeting with Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Mary Polak this morning.

The province is set to ratify a treaty with their Fraser canyon neighbour Yale First Nation next week that Stó:lō Nation President Joe Hall says will infringe on Stó:lō fishing rights.

"It doesn't look like the government will move off its course to ratify the treaty," said Hall. "The Stó:lō are not going to lie down and allow their rights and title to be given to another first nation."

Polak last week told The Tyee she's confident the Stó:lō concerns can be addressed and that the Yale treaty assures Stó:lō access to fishing sites.

"The clauses in there specifically give the Yale First Nation gatekeeper responsibilities," said Hall. It is unclear what that will mean, whether Stó:lō people will merely be allowed to visit fishing sites or whether they will be able to use the sites as they have traditionally, including to fish and to set up drying racks, he said.

In a May 20 meeting Yale chief Robert Hope said his first nation will be in a position to issue permits, said Hall. "He didn't give us any comfort that our rights and title will be protected."

However, the Stó:lō's fight is not with Yale but with the governments of British Columbia and Canada, he said. "We've just seen too many treaties in this country to believe governments are going to step up and defend the rights of other first nations," he said, adding that Stó:lō fishing rights should be made totally clear in the Yale treaty if it's moving ahead.

Hall said the Stó:lō Nation will oppose the Yale treaty as it goes through provincial and federal ratification, and may have to fight it in court. "We didn't want to have to go down that path," he said. "We're going to exhaust all avenues."

Hall and the four other Stó:lō leaders who met with Polak this morning had a meeting scheduled with representatives of the New Democratic Party opposition this afternoon.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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