The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation was divided over local band election issues and some members were poorly informed about their treaty offer when they voted to reject it, an analysis by the B.C. Treaty Commission has found.
The proposed treaty, the first finalized under the B.C. Treaty Commission process after more than a decade of talks, was voted down 123-111 in a series of votes held last March.
The commission’s follow-up found that members were given little time to consider the two-volume final agreement, which was distributed along with information sheets, a video and a “plain language guide” that ran to 108 pages.
The commission and the band council have been examining whether another vote can be held on a deal in the works since 1992.
“The comprehension level in the community was low,” the commission said in its report, adding that some members were unable to read well enough. It also noted that a core group of 15 community representatives who negotiated the agreement in principle was later expanded to more than 50, with each paid $40 per meeting to attend.
A survey of voters conducted by Mustel Group found that a third of members who didn’t vote did so because they didn’t like the settlement being offered. Among those who voted yes, 42 per cent thought it was the best deal for the band, and 39 per cent wanted to get the community out of the control of the federal Indian Affairs department.
In addition to 4,330 hectares of settlement lands, the Lheidli T’enneh deal included a one-time payment of $13.2 million and resource revenue sharing payments of $400,000 a year for the next 50 years.