First Nations Chiefs have ended their occupation of Premier Christy Clark’s office in West Kelowna after being guaranteed a high-level meeting with government officials (Tuesday) in Merritt.
The six day occupation started after Chiefs said they were unable to have an open dialogue with the province over their concerns regarding the trucking of sewage sludge from the Central Okanagan to land near Merritt.
“We decided we had no choice but to begin the occupation once it became clear that the province was refusing to take our concerns seriously,” said Upper Nicola Indian Band Chief Harvey McLeod.
“The province should have sought our consent before allowing any kind of biowaste dumping on our lands. Instead, the Province refused to give us proper information about the effects of biowaste and went ahead and allowed the operations without even consulting us.”
At the time, Chief Aaron Sam of the Lower Nicola Indian Band said leaders had met Environment Minister Mary Polak twice and asked her to disclose where the waste was being spread, but the government only provided a partial list.
The leaders said they were worried about impacts on land, water, traditional foods and health and noted the government is legally obligated to consult with aboriginals.
“It is time to move forward with resolving this issue on a government-to-government basis,” Coldwater Indian Band Chief Lee Spahan said in a release.
During the occupation RCMP members were on site both day and night ensuring the protest remained peaceful.
Cpl. Joe Duncan told Castanet there had been no issues with the demonstrators and officers wished to show their appreciation for the peaceful protest.
“Supt. Tim Head gave Chief Sam a blanket, a symbol of respect for going through these peaceful negotiations and having an open and honest dialogue.”
Although he had never seen a gesture such as this before, Cpl. Duncan did say the RCMP giving the blanket was a positive step in any negotiations and that officers respect everyone in the community.