Monday, August 27, 2013
A Watershed Moment
BC gov't's 'Business as usual' stance not good enough says Chawathil Chief
Released by Sheila Muxlow, WaterWealth Project
here has been a lot of attention in recent weeks on BC's Water Act as the story broke about Nestle Waters' cost-free extraction of millions of litres of groundwater from the region known as Hope, BC.
Not mentioned in the coverage to date is how Nestle operates on the traditional territory of the Chawathil First Nation; without compensation or consultation and without heed to the concerns of the Chawathil people.
"It’s no different than the way business has been done in this province since Europeans first arrived; but its time 'business-as-usual' practices change, because they're not working for our community and its fundamentally unlawful," stated Rhoda Peters, elected Chief of Chawathil First Nation. "We are not anti-business, but we want to see business operate in a way that respects our rights and ensures that our community is benefiting from the use of our lands and waters. Right now there is an opportunity for the provincial government to step up and do the right thing; to change what 'business-as-usual' looks like."
Aboriginal Rights and Title are a core piece of the Canadian constitution, and yet under the BC Water Act First Nations rights are not recognized and their expertise on a local level is often disregarded. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) have been at the forefront in advocating for the due respect and recognition of First Nations Rights and Title in BC.
"We as Indigenous Peoples have rights and a sacred responsibility to protect water for our people today and for the generations that follow," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. "It is completely unacceptable for Nestle to remove water from Sto:lo Territory for free and without any consideration and consultation with the affected First Nations, particularly Chawathil First Nation. This issue certainly highlights the overarching failures and serious deficiencies of the provincial water management system, in particular the obvious lack of recognition of Chawathil’s constitutionally-protected Title and Rights to their territories and resources. UBCIC fully supports the Chawathil First Nation and the continued call by First Nations for the Province to step up and meaningfully engage and consult with First Nations on water management issues."
The WaterWealth Project out of Chilliwack, BC is another organization calling for an overhaul of the BC Water Act.
"To bring water legislation in BC into the 21st century, recognition and reconciliation of Aboriginal Rights & Title is essential, but it also offers an opportunity for wide-spread spread benefit to all people who call this region home." explained Larry Commodore, two-time Chief of the Soowahlie First Nation and Community Advisor to the WaterWealth Project. "First Nations can provide traditional ecological knowledge stemming from the generations of stewardship over our home waters. A step in the right direction for the BC government should be to establish regional watershed authorities, similar to the Cowichan Watershed Board, providing a solution for First Nations and local governments to work together for mutual benefits."
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