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Fate of the Okanagan Band's Commonage Claim Hangs in the Balance

High Level meeting between Minister Scott and Aboriginal Leadership

Okanagan Indian Band
12420 Westside Road, Vernon, BC V1T 7Z3
Phone: 250-542-4328 / Fax: 250-542-4990
Web: http://www.okib.ca

November 24, 2005

For Immediate Release: (Vernon) Chief Fabian Alexis today announced that a delegation of national and provincial aboriginal leaders will be joining him in a meeting tomorrow with federal Indian Affairs Minister Andrew Scott and BC Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister Tom Christensen.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Stewart Phillip, and Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit will join Okanagan Indian Band Chief Fabian Alexis in his meeting with Ministers Scott and Christensen, while BC AFN Regional Chief Shawn Atleo will chair the meeting.

"We view this meeting as important not only in terms of the relationship between Canada and the Okanagan Indian Band but between our Band government, local governments, the Province and the investment community here in the North Okanagan," stated Chief Alexis. "If Ottawa refuses to negotiate the Commonage claim that has been outstanding for almost 130 years, how can we expect to be treated on other matters of importance to our community? At stake are potentially billions of dollars in investment revenues, not just in our local area but across BC."

"In 2000, then Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault agreed that Ottawa would accept the Commonage Claim for negotiation. Tomorrow’s meeting will determine whether his successor, Minister Scott, intends to honour or renege on that commitment," stated Chief Stewart Phillip. "To be credible, transformative change must take shape on the ground and the impacts must be visible and immediate. This is our expectation as a whole for the very important First Ministers meeting being held today and tomorrow in Kelowna," added Chief Phillip.

Certainly the honour of the Crown is at stake," said Phil Fontaine, "and simply walking away from the negotiating table will create further distrust between First Nations and the Crown right across Canada."

"Clearly, the only sensible and fair thing for Minister Scott to do is to publicly recommit to settling the Commonage Claim by negotiation," said Grand Chief Ed John. "It is not right that the federal government is hiding behind a limitations period set by the provincial government and that surely has no credible application in this situation."

Regional Chief for the BC Assembly of First Nations Shawn Atleo added: "We will be looking for a clear commitment from Minister Scott. If any real progress is to be made in the relationship between First Nations and the Crown then clear commitments like this one must be kept."

Chief Fabian Alexis sums it up this way: "we see the Commonage Indian Reserve #9 as still in existence today. It was not legally taken from us as we were never involved in the decision. This matter will not be resolved for us until we reach a fair and just settlement."

For more information, please contact:

Chief Fabian Alexis phone: 250-542-4328 email: fabian.alexis@okanagan.org  
Colin Braker (FN Summit) phone: 604-328-4094 email: info@fns.bc.ca  
Rhonda DesRosiers (BC AFN) phone: 604-922-4201 email: Rhonda@bcafn.ca  

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