The return of summer always brings with it the promise of better days ahead. Here in the South Okanagan, the onset of summer also carried with it the promise of warmer relations between the communities who share this corner of paradise.
As part of Friday’s Aboriginal Day celebrations, the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen signed off on a deal to formalize the working relationship with the Penticton, Osoyoos and Lower Similkameen Indian bands. The agreement has been in the works since 2008, but was sidetracked in a bureaucratic shuffle amidst concerns over contentious language over aboriginal rights and title. Those concerns were alleviated this spring, paving the way for a new dawn of regional co-operation.
The agreement does not mean there will not be differences between the area’s municipalities and local First Nations, but the bonds forged will increase the chances of finding an amicable resolution.
“We have a lot to talk about, and we’re not going to get it done hiding behind an office door or running off to another meeting. It’s (done by) sitting down and talking about the problem and fixing it,” said Lower Similkameen Indian Band Chief Robert Edward.
The protocol agreement helps to establish those lines of communication that will be needed to ensure any differences can be settled to the betterment of all parties concerned.
Each of our communities will be better served through stronger ties with our neighbours. Matters that benefit one community will quite often also be in the best interest of their neighbours. And where issues do bring negative consequences for one area, greater communication will lead to a mutual understanding that makes finding a solution much more likely.
There is no doubt the communities in the South Okanagan and Similkameen are inexorably linked. And this new agreement will go a long way to build a brighter future for us all.