Delegates from Canada, including local Indigenous observers, wrapped up the seventh round of negotiations on the Columbia River Treaty in the United States last week.
Canadian representatives met with American negotiators in Washington D.C. and are set to meet for another round of talks in Cranbrook in September, according to a provincial government press release.
Katrine Conroy, the Minister Responsible for the Columbia River Treaty and MLA for Kootenay-West, issued a statement, along with joint statements from local Indigenous nations.
“This round of negotiations marked a historic moment as representatives of Columbia Basin Indigenous Nations were present as observers for the first time,” said Conroy. “Representatives of the Ktunaxa, Syilx/Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations had already been collaborating with the governments of British Columbia and Canada on negotiation positions and strategies; but this week, they were present in the negotiating room and participated in breakout discussions with Canada and B.C. during negotiations.
“This is a very significant step forward – not just in terms of the Columbia River Treaty, but also in supporting our government’s commitment to reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“During the latest round of negotiations, the American and Canadian delegations took stock of progress of negotiations since the Columbia River Treaty modernization process began in May 2018. The latest discussions focused on flood-risk management, power and adaptive management.”
The Ktunaxa, Syilx/Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations also issued a joint statement following the latest round of talks on the treaty. The federal government announced Indigenous inclusion in the negotiation process two months ago after an outcry from local First Nations advocates.
“While a great deal of work remains to be done, we are very pleased with what we have observed and participated in to date,” reads the statement. “This precedent-setting role as observers builds on and enhances our important work with Canada and B.C. over the last two years. We are confident that we can continue to contribute positively to these negotiations and help realize the First Nations’ goals for meaningful outcomes from these negotiations that are of critical importance to our nations and homelands.”
The Columbia River Treaty is a water management agreement signed between Canada and the U.S. in 1964.
In exchange for providing flood control and downstream power benefits, Canada agreed to build three dams, while the U.S. agreed to build one.
While the power generation provides for roughly half of the potential power generation in B.C., the construction of the dams flooded 110,000 hectares of Canadian ecosystems and displaced more than two thousand residents, heavily impacting First Nations communities and traditional territories.
The treaty has been criticized for failing to adequately consult with First Nations and other stakeholders when it was first negotiated.
Under the agreement, the U.S. paid Canada $64 million for 60 years of flood control and power generation benefits. The treaty has no end date, but either country can unilaterally terminate the deal by 2024, provided there is a 10-year notice.