27 Jun 2012
The final day of voting for the Tla’amin treaty will be held on July 10 at the Sliammon Salish Centre.
The new date was set after protesters blockaded the polling station on June 16. Sliammon First Nation’s lawyers applied for a court injunction. RCMP enforced the court order early on Tuesday, June 26.
Chief Clint Williams said: “There were a few blockaders still there, but the RCMP moved in and now have the area blocked off.” He said the offices of the Sliammon Treaty Society and the nation’s development corporation offices were re-opened. Those offices are on the second floor of the centre.
“It is unfortunate that a small group prevented our members from voting on whether or not we should proceed with the treaty,” said Williams. “Our challenge now is to give our members their democratic right to vote on the Treaty.”
The RCMP will be enforcing the terms of the injunction, including a 100-metre no-go area around the centre, until after the vote is certified on July 10.
The protest received national media attention in the week following the blockade. While there was some support for the action, there was even greater condemnation for what many saw as a disruption to the democratic voting process.
Most protesters turned out last week on the day that APTN News visited the nation. While there was extensive coverage of the protest, there was just one voice from the treaty society. Negotiator Denise Smith spoke in place of Chief Williams who was with a grieving young family after the death of their child.
In a separate statement, Vern Pielle, president of the Sliammon Treaty Society, said of the vote stoppage: “We’ve fought for decades for this right… We need to finish our process. All of our members – not just a few – must have the right to make their views known.”
Both Canada’s and BC’s aboriginal affairs ministers criticized the protesters as did the BC Treaty Commission. But strong censure also came from First Nations who have approved their treaties.
Chief Kim Baird of Tsawwassen First Nation, which ratified treaty in a 2007 vote, said: “Every member of Tla'amin First Nation has the right to express their choice through a voting process. It is disappointing that a small group have interfered with that right.”
The five Maa-Nulth First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, whose treaty came into effect last year, said: “We are distressed at this subversion of the democratic process in another First Nation.
“Throughout the world, ordinary people are fighting and dying to secure democratic regimes and to guarantee the right of expression through the ballot box. Right thinking Canadians, aboriginal or otherwise, should not stand silently by while these fundamental rights are under assault.”
But perhaps the strongest comments came from Sliammon voters who expressed sadness and very little anger on their Facebook postings.
“Don't get too mad at the people blocking off the gym,” said one. “Yes, they are taking away the right for everyone to vote. Yes, what they are doing is illegal. It is immoral, immature and uncalled for. But they are doing what they truly think is right for Sliammon. They are ill-informed about what's in treaty and are followers to what they hear in the wind rather than true facts.”