Chief Stewart Phillip.

Okanagan Nation cautious, welcoming, of new principles for First Nations

Kelowna - ONA says the Government of Canada finally appears ready to engage with First Nations

Calling the last 150 years the most dark and tragic period in their nation’s history, leaders of the Syilx Okanagan Nation say they welcome the federal government’s introduction of a new set of principles to move toward reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations.

Earlier this month the Liberal government released its Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, a set of 10 principles that they say will form a foundation for transforming how the federal government partners with and supports Indigenous peoples and governments.

The government said in the coming months it would continue to review laws, policies and operational practices in moving forward with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.

On Friday Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, chair of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, said it was a first step in a long-overdue process.

“These new principles are an important first step in improving Indigenous-Crown relationships, but the proof is action and outcomes,” he said. “These principles are a long-awaited response to the 1910 Sir Wilfred Laurier Memorial, where the Syilx Okanagan Nation and other Indigenous Nations first addressed the grave injustices and infringements on these nations title and rights as a result of rapid settlement and colonization.”

In making the announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a new working group will work with Indigenous leaders, organizations and communities, experts, and where appropriate the provinces and territories, to further advance its review of laws, policies and operational practices.

“Our government is taking another important step to renew Canada’s nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples,” said Trudeau. “Working in partnership with Indigenous leaders, communities, and youth, the working group will use these principles to take a whole-of-government approach to assess and recommend statutory change and new policies to best meet our constitutional obligations and international commitments to Indigenous Peoples.”

In a statement released Friday, the Syilx Okanagan Nation said that the principles provide a solid foundation for a renewed nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership, but said the long road ahead will require tireless and continued commitment by the Government of Canada, Canadians and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, including the Syilx Okanagan Nation.

“The Syilx Okanagan Nation has remained steadfastly committed to advancing its title and rights within Syilx Okanagan territory,” stated the group. “For generations, the Syilx Okanagan Nation has been prepared to engage on true nation-to-nation dialogue premised on mutual respect and recognition and these principles are an indicator that the Government of Canada is finally prepared to engage in these discussions.”

The Okanagan Nation Alliance represents its eight (8) member communities and is mandated to protect, advance and defend the Syilx Okanagan Nation’s collective Title and Rights.