The Strathcona Regional District will be using the word “unceded” in its territorial acknowledgements unless acknowledging land that is under treaty, but the debate divided the board evenly.
Of the 14 voting members of the board, eight voted against a motion that would remove the term from the proposed territorial acknowledgement policy.
Directors Colleen Evans, Noba Anderson, Julie Colborne, Mark Baker, Martin Davis, Kevin Jules, Brad Unger and Claire Moglove all voted to keep the term in the policy.
Directors Gerald Whalley, Brenda Leigh, Ron Kerr, Andy Adams and Jim Abram voted against using the word.
The word “unceded” when used in this context refers to territory that has not been handed over to the crown through the treaty process. In the SRD, only one First Nation has completed that process, and the policy reflects that. Most (95 per cent) of B.C. is land that has never been signed away by Indigenous people to the Crown, according to “Pulling Together: Foundations Guide,” a textbook used to help B.C. institutions become more inclusive to Indigenous people.
Back in December, the policy was up for debate at the board table. At the time, Director Whalley questioned the use of the word “unceded.”
He made the motion at that time to not use the term, but the vote was delayed until after staff and the First Nations Relations Committee revisit the policy.
“Our provincial negotiators (in the treaty process) don’t use the word ‘unceded’ for a very specific reason,” he said on Feb. 9. “We shouldn’t use it either.”
Director Jim Abram also urged caution during the Feb. 9 meeting in using the word, saying “it’s a political comment on whether or not that territory is ceded or unceded.
“I felt uncomfortable entering into that political discussion.”
However, other directors saw the use of the word as paramount to the document.
Director Moglove said “This word… is hugely important to this process and in my opinion if it’s not there our policy will not be worth the paper it’s written on.”
“Anything that is not… finalized under treaty retains that ‘unceded’ designation. It’s as simple as that,” said director Julie Colborne. “The point has been belaboured and discussed… it needs to remain in this policy in whatever form.”
Director Kevin Jules questioned the need to continue the debate, saying that “it feels like we’re beating a dead horse here.
“This has been talked about over and over and over again… I don’t see why it’s such a big problem.”
After the debate on wording was complete and voted on, the motion to enact the territorial acknowledgment policy was passed.
Campbell River Director Charlie Cornfield was not present at the meeting and was not able to vote on the matter. The story has been corrected to reflect this.