Chiefs differ on publicizing voting positions

Kitselas chief councillor says she will be voting "yes" when her First Nation's land claims agreement in principle approval vote takes place

Kitselas chief councillor Judy Gerow says she’ll be voting ‘yes’  when her First Nation’s land claims agreement in principle approval vote takes place Feb. 20.

But Don Roberts, the chief councillor at Kitsumkalum, isn’t ready to make his decision public leading up to his First Nation’s agreement in principle vote April 10.

Speaking at the Jan. 31 signing ceremony to add to the Kitselas Nation’s land base, Gerow said the agreement in principle, which if approved contains the core of negotiations leading to an eventual land claims treaty, provides Kitselas with tools for economic and other development.

“I will be voting ‘yes’,” said Gerow.

“I do feel confident but am kind of cautious at the same time. I do have a good feeling,” said Gerow of the prospects of the Kitselas membership giving majority approval to the agreement in principle.

She added that the Kitselas treaty communications team has been working hard to provide details of the agreement in principle and to answer questions.

Yet Gerow also said she was concerned that the impact of the Idle No More movement may lead to people voting against the agreement in principle because they are dissatisfied with all of some of its provisions.

“When I speak to the treaty team, I tell them to use this as a positive,” said Gerow of Idle No More, adding that themes of control of lands and resources and environmental protection that are coming out in Idle No More are contained in treaties.

“Idle No More is an awesome idea but the interpretation is left open. There should be a focus and I would say so that treaties are a way of establishing that focus.”

Robert said he wasn’t going to reveal how he was going to vote because he didn’t want to be seen to sway how people might vote..

“I leave that up to the people to make a decision,” said Roberts. “It’s the people who will make up their minds.”

But Roberts did say there’s concern within the four house groups at Kitsumkalum about  ownership and control of marine resources. He said the Skeena River, other water systems and the life they contain are a part of the Kitsumkalum people.

“We need a fisheries plan; we absolutely need that,” said Roberts.

At the same time, Roberts said the provincial and federal governments have to realize how the Kitsumkalum people view lands that won’t be party of their core treaty.

“It’s even,” said Roberts in terms of importance between the two types of land.

“They may not have a 100 per cent say [in development outside of core treaty lands] but they will be looking for partnerships, revenue sharing,” he added.