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SPOTLIGHT ON
ABORIGINAL RIGHTS

The BC Treaty Negotiations Referendum
( .pdf file )

"I think the provincial government should be encouraged to go back to the table with unconditional negotiations."

July 5, 2002 - The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations dismissed British Columbia's "politically and morally wrong" Treaty Referendum and its results. In an interview with Turtle Island Native Network, Matthew Coon Come said "Referendum cannot extinguish aboriginal rights - referendum cannot extinguish the inherent right to self-government." What really impressed him about the treaty referendum was the low turnout rate by BC voters. "I think that shows they do show respect for the Constitution of Canada and international human rights." Coon Come called the referendum process nonsense and a total waste of time and "I think the provincial government should be encouraged to go back to the table with unconditional negotiations."

Click on this image to see a larger image of the National Chief

The BC Premier and the Attorney General have said they intend to move forward with their new mandate delivered to them by the referendum results. However, the National Chief says that's not possible "You cannot move forward if you take a strong position that you won't negotiate the right to self-government." He also emphasized the BC government has overstepped its jurisdictional boundaries "The province has no authority or jurisidction over taxation as an example . . . it's under the Indian Act." Coon Come reiterated that the outcome of the referendum speaks for itself "The fact that the majority did not participate, I think speaks volumes." As for what the future holds for treaty talks in BC, the National Chief said in the end the government has no choice but to negotiate "Our issues are well documented - court cases and the constitution. Jurisprudence cases across this country recognize our aboriginal and treaty rights, so they have to negotiate, they have no choice. They're deeply obligated to sit down and talk to us. They need our consent." That's the mandate Matthew Coon Come says the BC government already has, not the results of the treaty referendum.

Treaty Referendum results from Elections BC
July 3, 2002

July 4, 2002 - Despite the government's spin on the numbers - UBCIC Points Out Majority in BC Rejected Referendum. In a news release, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs explained that nearly 75% of BC voters either boycotted or registered a no vote in the treaty referendum sponsored by the BC Liberal government. --In short, approximately 1.6 million citizens of BC rejected Premier Gordon Campbell’s treaty referendum. The referendum questions were deliberately designed to generate a biased response in favor of the Provincial government’s negotiating stance.-- Chief Stewart Phillip cautioned --In the event that the Provincial government continues to refuse to accommodate our aboriginal title and rights interests and continues to attempt to manipulate the aboriginal title and rights policy agenda, we can expect more serious conflict on the land and subsequently more litigation. In our view, the Provincial government runs the real risk of creating the conditions that may very well cause the final collapse of the struggling BC Treaty process by virtue of the fact the responses to the referendum questions shall create unacceptable pre-conditions to future treaty negotiations. Consequently, the BC referendum on treaty making may very well prove to be a -mill stone- as opposed to the -milestone- proclaimed by Premier Campbell during his press conference yesterday.-- Last night hundreds of BC Treaty Referendum ballots were incinerated as a ball of flame erupted off the shore of the Songhees First Nation in a cardboard canoe used to symbolically set the Campbell government and its unpopular referendum adrift. The long cardboard canoe dubbed the S.S. Referendum was stuffed with ballots, doused with a flammable liquid and then Chief Judith Sayers of Hupacasath First Nation lighted it with a flaming arrow. With a loud bang fierce fire quickly erupted and spread through the paper ballots and consumed them all and the canoe as dozens of people stood on shore cheering. It was part of several hours of celebration, including traditional dances in the Big House and words of gratitude to all the Aboriginal and non-aboriginals who supported the referendum boycott and protest.

First Nations in BC continue to receive support from non-Aboriginal organizations in the wake of the controversial and unpopular treaty referendum results. The BC Government and Service Employees' Union affirmed its solidarity with First Nations --This referendum was a mockery and an afront to Canadian law,-- said BCGEU President George Heyman. He pointed out that 64 per cent of British Columbia voters refused to participate in --the BC Liberal government's charade by abstaining from voting or spoiling their ballots or voting no to the referendum questions.-- NDP Opposition MLA, Jenny Kwan, said --With the ballots finally counted, the Gordon Campbell government has an enormous job to do overcoming the legacy of bitterness and uncertainty it created by proceeding with a referendum on aboriginal land-claims. The damage done by this referendum could take years for our province to overcome.-- She called the referendum a huge waste of time and money and that the results are essentially meaningless. Kwan pointed out that only 29% of eligible voters said yes to question 6. --On that basis, the government is confining itself to a very narrow vision of aboriginal governance that may not meet the fair and just aspirations of First Nations across BC.-- The BC Federation of Labour called on the provincial government to bargain fairly with First Nations at the negotiating table after British Columbians --soundly rejected the BC Treaty referendum--. During the government's referendum campaign leaders of BC's faith communities, non-profit societies, community organizations, trade unions and the environmental movement joined forces to urge British Columbians to reject the controversial mail-in ballot. The Federation pointed out that thousands of British Columbians turned their Treaty referendum ballots over to First Nations between April and June of this year in a province-wide protest against the BC Liberal Treaty referendum. Over 64 percent of voters did not vote at all. Angela Schira, Secretary-Treasurer, B.C. Federation of Labour said --The government just wasted well over $9 million on a fruitless and futile exercise. The Liberals deliberately designed flawed questions in order to get a mandate to treat the process with contempt. Today's results show that BC voters weren't fooled by this process - they just want the Liberals to get back to the table and deal fairly with land claims.--

July 3, 2002 - Premier Gordon Campbell called it an incredible milestone in the history of treaty making in British Columbia and an unprecedented act of direct democracy. The participation rate was only nearly 36 per cent but a majority of British Columbia voters who sent their ballots to the government were in favour of the province's questions - answering yes to questions giving the government its mandate dictating the way treaty negotiations should be conducted with First Nations. Elections BC released the referendum results - An affirmative response to the eight questions ranged from 84 to 95 per cent of validly cast votes. Attorney General Geoff Plant said the results provide overwhelming support for the government's statements of principle and these will be given as part of new instructions to the province's treaty negotiators. 84.5 per cent said Yes to Question 1 - they agree that private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements. 92.1 per cent said Yes to Question 2 - they agree that the terms and conditions of leases and licences should be respected and fair compensation for unavoidable disruption of commercial interests should be ensured. 93.1 per cent agreed in response to Question 3 that hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on Crown land should be ensured for all British Columbians. 94.5 per cent agreed that parks and protected areas should be maintained for the use and benefit of all British Columbians. 93.6 per cent agreed that province-wide standards of resource management and environmental protection should continue to apply. On Question 6, 87.2 per cent agreed that the Provincial Government should adopt the principle that aboriginal self-government should have the characteristics of local government, with powers delegated from Canada and British Columbia. 91.7 per cent agreed on Question 7 that treaties should include mechanisms for harmonizing land use planning between aboriginal governments and neighbouring local governments. 90.5 per cent agreed that we should adopt the principle that existing tax exemptions for aboriginal people should be phased out. Treaty Referendum ballots will receive traditional treatment by First Nations as they are loaded into a canoe and pushed out to sea. That symbolic ceremony taking place at Songhees Nation is reminiscent said Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers of the way the ancestors used to treat those who had done wrong or offended them . . . like British Columbia Premier Campbell and Attorney General Plant for going ahead with the referendum that put treaty talks on hold. Elections BC will release the results of the controversial referendum and First Nations and their supporters will gather for a salmon barbeque and the ceremony to set the spoiled ballots adrift. Chief Sayers received more than twelve thousand ballots from British Columbians disgusted with the government's referendum. Many of those ballots were burned during a ceremony in Port Alberni in June.

For Immediate Release
July 3, 2002
Office of the Premier
Treaty Negotiations Office

BRITISH COLUMBIANS ENDORSE PRINCIPLES FOR NEGOTIATIONS

VICTORIA - British Columbians have given a strong vote of confidence in both the treaty-making process and the principles that the provincial government will take to the negotiating table, Premier Gordon Campbell said today.

"The government is pleased that British Columbians have provided clear and positive support for all the principles set out in the referendum," said Campbell. "An affirmative response to the eight questions ranged from 84 to 95 per cent of validly cast votes."

The referendum results were presented to government this morning by Elections BC, the non-partisan office of the legislature responsible for the administration of the referendum. Elections BC has posted the results on its Web site at http://www.elections.bc.ca/index.html.

"The government is pleased to receive the results, which reflect the thoughtful input of hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who participated constructively in this important discussion about treaty issues," said Campbell.

"The results show that British Columbians are firm in their resolve to negotiate workable, affordable treaties that will provide certainty, finality and equality. And they are ready to forge a new era of reconciliation with First Nations, measured in positive actions andoutcomes."

During the next 30 days, the government intends to meet with First Nations leaders, the federal government and third parties to the treaty process to discuss the results and ways to make treaty negotiations more effective.

"We will take some time to review the results in detail and then formulate an approach to negotiations with Canada and First Nations," said Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations Geoff Plant. "The results will help revitalize the treaty process by establishing a publicly supported mandate for negotiations."

The release of the results completes a process that began in early April, when ballots were sent to B.C. voters, who had until May 15 to mark and return their ballots to Elections BC, which administered the innovative mail-in ballot system for the first time in B.C.'s electoral history.-30-

This news release is online at www.gov.bc.ca. Contact: Michael Morton, Office of the Premier, 250 213-8218 Bill Armstrong, Treaty Negotiations Office, Communications, 250 356-9334

BACKGROUNDER PRINCIPLES CONSIDERED IN REFERENDUM VOTE

Preamble to referendum questions on treaty principles:

Whereas the government of British Columbia is committed to negotiating workable, affordable treaty settlements that will provide certainty, finality and equality.

"Do you agree that the provincial government should adopt the following principles to guide its participation in treaty negotiations?"

1. Private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements.

2. The terms and conditions of leases and licences should be respected; fair compensation for unavoidable disruption of commercial interests should be ensured.

3. Hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on Crown land should be ensured for all British Columbians.

4. Parks and protected areas should be maintained for the use and benefit of all British Columbians.

5. Province-wide standards of resource management and environmental protection should continue to apply.

6. Aboriginal self-government should have the characteristics of local government, with powers delegated from Canada and British Columbia.

7. Treaties should include mechanisms for harmonizing land use planning between Aboriginal governments and neighbouring local governments.

8. The existing tax exemptions for Aboriginal people should be phased out. -30-

Contact:Bill ArmstrongTreaty Negotiations Office250 889-4120

PREMIER GORDON CAMPBELLPOST REFERENDUM PRESS CONFERENCE
SPEAKING NOTES

Today's referendum results mark a crucial milestone in the long march towards treaty-making in British Columbia. After many years of being shut out of the treaty process, the people have finally had their say - and their message to First Nations and to all Canadians is unmistakable.

British Columbians stand firm in their resolve to negotiate workable, affordable treaties that will provide certainty, finality and equality. They have given their provincial government a clear mandate and a solid set of principles to get on with the task. And they are ready to forge a new era of reconciliation with First Nations measured not in words or good intentions, but in positive actions andoutcomes.

That was the overwhelming message of the 760,000 citizens who cast their ballots in the referendum. It was the message sent in response to question after question by those who participated in this unprecedented act of direct democracy. ... I want all British Columbians to know that the guidance and direction they have given their provincial negotiators today on each point is crystal clear.

84.5 per cent said "yes" to Question 1 - they agree that private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements.

92.1 per cent said "yes" to Question 2 - they agree that the terms and conditions of leases and licences should be respected; and fair compensation for unavoidable disruption of commercial interests should be ensured.

On principle after principle, the people's verdict is unmistakable. 93.1 per cent agreed in response to Question 3 that hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on Crown land should be ensured for all British Columbians.

94.5 per cent agreed that parks and protected areas should be maintained for the use and benefit of all British Columbians.

93.6 per cent agreed that province-wide standards of resource management and environmental protection should continue to apply. B

ritish Columbians also strongly endorsed the position that we have consistently put forward on self-government.

On Question 6, 87.2 per cent agreed that the Provincial Government should adopt the principle that aboriginal self-government should have the characteristics of local government, with powers delegated from Canada and British Columbia.

Similarly, 91.7 per cent agreed on Question 7 that treaties should include mechanisms for harmonizing land use planning between aboriginal governments and neighbouring local governments.

And finally, 90.5 per cent agreed that we should adopt the principle that existing tax exemptions for aboriginal people should be phased out.

The net result is a resounding vote of confidence in both the treaty-making process and the principles that my government will take to the negotiating table on the people's behalf.

To those who did not choose to participate in the referendum, I say, never let it be said you didn't have a chance.

To those who did participate by mailing in their ballots, I say, thank you - that's democracy in action. For in the end, the point of this vote as with any other is not simply how you voted, or even if you did. The point is that you could vote - that you had a right to participate and make your voice heard.

As I said, three-quarters-of-a-million British Columbians availed themselves of that opportunity - or nearly 36 per cent of the electorate. But by any measure, it's a tribute to democracy and to British Columbians' profound interest in this issue that 760,000 citizens took the time to get involved and make their views known.

So now it's up to us - to the people's elected representatives - to use that mandate to reinvigorate the treaty process and redouble our efforts to get results. That is my aim - and that is my government's commitment.

We have a mission, we have a mandate and we are going to move mountains to see it through.

To all First Nations, in particular, I want you to know - in the months and years to come, you will see that my government will use the mandate given to it by the people to move farther, faster than you ever might have imagined.

We will make tangible progress, not just at the treaty table, but in building capacity and in tackling real needs that must be met now - not in 10 or 20 years' time.

I will have much more to say about how we might achieve those goals in the weeks ahead, following discussions with First Nations leaders.

Treaty Referendum ballots will receive traditional treatment by First Nations as they are loaded into a canoe and pushed out to sea. That symbolic ceremony taking place at Songhees Nation is reminiscent said Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers of the way the ancestors used to treat those who had done wrong or offended them . . . like British Columbia Premier Campbell and Attorney General Plant for going ahead with the referendum that put treaty talks on hold. Elections BC will release the results of the controversial referendum and First Nations and their supporters will gather for a salmon barbeque and the ceremony to set the spoiled ballots adrift. Chief Sayers received more than twelve thousand ballots from British Columbians disgusted with the government's referendum. Many of those ballots were burned during a ceremony in Port Alberni in June.

July 1, 2002 - Just days before the BC Government releases results of its controversial and unpopular Treaty Refrendum, the BC Supreme Court has ruled against a First Nation effort to declare the language of the referendum illegal. Mr Justice James Shabitts dismissed the arguments by the Hupacasath First Nation that the wording of the referendum was unconstitutional. Elections BC plans to release the referendum results July 3rd at 1pm while Aboriginal protestors plan a rally several hours later in Victoria.

BC Supreme Court Rejects Hupacasath First Nation Argument Against Referendum
( .pdf file )

Burning Ballots in Port Alberni
Click Here for Pictures

(this is a large .pdf file)

June 11, 2002 - Burn Baby Burn, some called out as they watched BC Treaty Referendum ballots being burned at a gathering in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. At one point more than a a hundred and fifty people were on hand for the ceremony Monday - described at times as a celebration of solidarity against the BC Government's nasty referendum. The gathering included First Nations leaders including Chief Judith Sayers who is one of those to launch a protest by collecting ballots. She estimated more than twelve thousand were sent to her alone. She was joined by community members, teachers, labour officials and young singers and dancers.

BC Supreme Court rejects First Nation efforts to block counting of treaty referendum ballots
May 15, 2002

Rap Against the Referendum
May 14, 2002

"...the referendum is subversive of the rule of law."
-- Former BC Supreme Court Justice
Thomas Berger

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Above Photos from Party and Protest
April 20, 2002 - Victoria, BC
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May 16, 2002 - BC Supreme Court rejects First Nation efforts to block counting of treaty referendum ballots. The case was launched by Wilson Bob, Robert Sam - Roderick Naknakim, Mavis Ericson and Lydia Hwitsum. The Honourable Madam Justice D.M. Smith " concluded, therefore, that the balance of convenience weighs in favour of the public interest being served by the counting and reporting of the referendum vote." Conclusion "The plaintiffs have shown there is a serious issue to be tried. However, they have not established on the evidence that irreparable harm will result from the referendum vote being counted and reported to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. Nor have they established that the benefit to the public interest will be outweighed by any potential harm that might be caused by the counting and reporting of the referendum vote. In the result, they have not met the three-fold test as required by the authorities. Accordingly, the application is dismissed." One of the arguments put forward by the First Nations included "The plaintiffs claim the reporting of an affirmative vote in the referendum will cause irreparable harm to aboriginal people by binding the Province legally, politically and morally to a historical position that advocates a policy of assimilation based on stereotypical and ethnocentric views about aboriginal people. Based on the opinion evidence of the expert witnesses, the plaintiffs claim the reporting of the results of the referendum will inflame prejudices, create feelings of hostility, and cause the general population to become discriminatory toward aboriginal people. The plaintiffs also claim the general population may be falsely led into believing that the results of the referendum will put the issues of aboriginal land claims to rest. Even if the Regulation is subsequently declared unconstitutional, the plaintiffs submit relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people will have been permanently damaged." The BC Supreme Court Justice said "There is simply no direct evidence to support any of the theories." and she said "I am of the view that it would be too speculative to conclude that the mere reporting of the referendum results would cause the residents of British Columbia to become discriminatory, hostile and racially biased toward aboriginal people."

BACKGROUND
On April 10, 2002, the plaintiff aboriginal leaders and elders commenced an action challenging the constitutionality of the Treaty Negotiations Referendum Regulation, B.C. Reg. 50/2002, -the Regulation-. The Regulation authorizes the provincial government to hold a referendum on the core principles by which it will be governed in conducting treaty negotiations with aboriginal peoples in British Columbia. In this application, the plaintiffs seek a stay or partial stay of the Regulation and an interlocutory injunction against the Chief Electoral Officer of British Columbia -the CEO- enjoining him from counting the ballots and reporting the results of the referendum pending the trial of this matter. It is anticipated the trial might take two to three weeks and be heard anywhere from six months to a year from now. It should be noted at the outset that this interlocutory application does not involve a final determination on the constitutional issues raised by the pleadings.

May 13, 2002 - As the deadline for ballots to be mailed in, both First Nations and the Campbell government declare pre-referendum victories. Attorney General Geoff Plant points to the more than six hundred thousand votes cast by last week. However, Union of BC Indian Chiefs President Chief Stewart Phillip sees it much differently. With the May 15th deadline approaching, Chief Phillip stated, "We are encouraged that a substantial majority of British Columbians have rejected the BC Treaty Referendum. As it stands, the ratio is 2 to 1 in relation to those people who choose not to participate versus the number of ballots received to-date. We are confident that there will be a quite a number of rejected and no votes when Elections BC concludes its tally in July." Chief Phillip further stated, "Throughout the referendum process, people have registered their protest by redirecting their ballots, using their ballots for art contests, writing letters of support or by recycling their ballots. The amount of public support has been exceptional."

To mark the end of the referendum process, Phillip announced that on May 14th, the eve of the referendum deadline, the Native Youth Movement, West Coast Warriors Society and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs will present Movement- Rap Against the Referendum at the WISE Hall in Vancouver with plenty of entertainment. They invite everyone to join in a night of solidarity.

May 9, 2002 - The BC government should disregard the results to its controversial referendum on the BC Treaty Process. That urging comes from Matthw Coon Come, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Coon Come said, "Church leaders, business organizations, journalists, citizens, First Nations have all condemned this referendum as being divisive, unprofessional and misleading".

He said " the questions are so confusing that, regardless of the results, the BC Government could interpret them any way they wish."

The national chief insists "Creativity is what's needed at the Treaty Tables to get settlements, not narrow government mandates based on the results of some nebulous referendum. If the Campbell government wants to see progress at the Treaty tables during its term in office, it should show it by disregarding the results of the treaty referendum, mandating its negotiators to be more flexible with First Nations and pressuring the Federal Government to make creativity a negotiating priority."

Eight questions have been put forward to the BC Public with the intent of providing the Government of Premier Gordon Campbell with mandates to advance at the Treaty Tables. Over 70 per cent of the 198 First Nations in BC have been trying to negotiate land settlements over the last 10 years. Legal and polling experts have condemned many of the questions as being irrelevant and completely outside the constitutional jurisdiction of the Campbell Government.

Coon Come explained that First Nations were enticed into the BC Treaty Process over 10 years ago by the Provincial and Federal Governments who committed to abide by 19 principles signed off in a sacred ceremony in 1992. "The reason that there has not been a single Treaty signed in 10 years of negotiations has nothing to do with how First Nations have conducted themselves in the negotiations," added the National Chief.

"Almost the day after those 19 principles were committed to, the Province and Federal Government were setting conditions that made it impossible for settlements to happen. Removing compensation for lost lands from the Treaty Tables, limiting land settlements to 5% of the lands lost and fiddling with interim measures agreements have ensured that no settlements would ever be achieved."

In the coming weeks the National Chief will be monitoring the results of the Treaty Referendum closely and meeting with BC's First Nation Summit leaders ito discuss strategies to deal with the aftermath of the Referendum.

May 8, 2002 - DESTROYED, DISPOSED BALLOTS
NOT EFFECTIVE PROTEST

Dr. Stephen Greymorning, acting director of the University of Victoria's indigenous governance program says B.C. voters who destroy their referendum on treaty negotiations ballots or send them elsewhere than the Elections BC office are nullifiying their protest.

Greymorning says "People are losing sight over how the ballots are ultimately handled. The government can only work with the ballots in their possession. They will make no assumptions about the number that may have been destroyed or sent elsewhere in protest."

Greymorning suggests voters instead only respond to those questions where they can provide a clear answer or respond both "yes" and "no" to those questions whose wording is ambiguous. "This action can present a statement that is an equally strong protest over the ambiguous wording of some of the questions, but I don't know if the government will equate these kind of responses with a spoiled ballot or not. The government has not been clear about this. The objective then is to provide ballots that can be counted in protest," said Greymorning.

To be counted, the ballots must be delivered to Elections BC by May 15. A government official says those postmarked before May 15th but don't reach Elections BC on time will not be counted.

Referendum is Expensive Distraction From the Facts
"Canada Owes Land, Resources and
a Measure of Respect to First Nations"

by Jody Paterson
Columnist, Victoria Times Colonist
May 7, 2002

"Treaty negotiations and aboriginal rights
are extremely sensitive issues.
A referendum that relates to such issues is
fraught with the danger that it could act as a
lightning rod for unjustified animosity
and negativity towards aboriginal people
who are trying to resolve the issues
surrounding their status as Canadians."
BC Chamber of Commerce President John Winter

Click on banner for photos

"This process is not an exercise in direct democracy"
BC Civil Liberties Association President John Dixon

The Tragedy of the BC Treaty Referendum
"We are no longer in negotiations,
but in a situation where one party is dictating
what they want"

by Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers
(Note this is a .pdf file)

April 2002
Demonstrations

Poking Fun

Pollsters

Whites vs. Aboriginals

Partisan Political Platitudes

Business Concerns

Legal action

Solidarity by Labour

Civil Disobedience

Church Action

Boycott

Ballot Burning

Political Pronouncements
by Preachers in Pulpits


Civil Liberties

and a Trek

are all part of
The Growing Unpopularity
of the BC Treaty Referendum


First Nations Treaty Negotiations Alliance
Tribal Councils ... First Nations Summit
... Union of BC Indian Chiefs ... Aboriginal students,
School Trustees
Anglican Bishops ... New Democrats ... Teachers ...
citizens and Labour---
all part of growing protest
and opposition
to the "Waste of Ten Million Dollars"


May 1, 2002 - Referendum Disrespects First Nations says Canadian Race Relations Foundation CRRF. Recommends BC Voters Boycott it. The CRRF said in a letter to Premier Campbell --it is strongly opposed to the British Columbia Referendum on Treaty Negotiations which is currently underway. In our opinion, the referendum will have a negative effect on the future of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal relations in British Columbia. The CRRF believes that this referendum disrespects First Nations in that it ignores Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution of 1982 with respect to treaty negotiations and, it insults First Nations in its paternalistic approach to governance. Furthermore, the CRRF believes that the referendum contravenes the spirit of the recent report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples RCAP, which advocated Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples working together to resolve issues.-- The Foundation's letter goes on to suggest the referendum --is an attempt to circumvent the judgements and rulings of courts of law, including the Supreme Court of Canada and, has racist underpinnings. -- April 25, 2002 - CBC TV survey shows majority of BC voters are opposed to the treaty referendum. Among those expressing an opinion, 55 percent are opposed - most are strongly opposed 30 per cent and 45 percent are in favour of the referendum. While the majority of respondents feel informed, only 18 percent feel very informed about the issues addressed in the referendum questions. 87 per cent of those sampled said that resolving the native treaty issue in BC is important, with the majority 58 per cent indicating that it is very important to resolve. Overall, a higher proportion of respondents are opposed to the referendum 43 percent than are in favour of it 35 percent. Among those opposed, those opposing the referendum strongly 30 percent outnumber those opposing it somewhat 13 percent by over 2 to 1. One in five respondents 22 percent are not sure where they stand 18 percent or did not want to offer an opinion 4 percent. A higher proportion of men are in favour of the referendum 43 percent than women 27 percent. April 22, 2002 - Chief Judith Sayers, Hupacasath First Nation warns people to approach Attorney General Geoff Plant's words regarding revamped treaty talks, with caution. She told Turtle Island Native Network "This idea of incremental treaties is one that was being promoted by the BC Treaty Commission. They do not like the big bang theory. It is probably untimely, as a lot of the issues have been negotiated at tables. Of course with the referendum, most of that would be deleted by the province. The province is looking for certainty now. One has to approach this idea with great caution if at all. They want to settle lands and resources without getting into what they consider the thorny issue - self government. If they can get their certainty, they will not have to negotiate anything else. How do you keep the governments at the table as you go area by area? How committed are they? The idea was to have a treaty, not a series of agreements. This method could end up that way. The question is also one of time and money. If this takes more years than comprehensive treaties, what is the advantage? We are racking up debt, if we aren't totally involved in negotiations, can our communities sustain the kind of debt load we are carrying."

April 20, 2002 - Aboriginals and their supporters - about a hundred held a rally, then a combined protest and a party starting at Victoria's Centennial Square on Vancouver Island and then in the street in front of the BC Legislature. The area was cordoned off with yellow police tape. There were speeches by young warriors, an Elder, and community activists who joined the gathering in solidarity with Aboriginal people against the Treaty Referendum. It was billed as Block the Treaty Referend - DUM!! Party and Protest. The smell of barbequed food wafted through the air, mixing with the powerful words of Aboriginal youth who reminded the crowd they are the ones who must now carry the burden of dealing with the many social, political and economic issues facing First Nations. The speakers were not only opposed to the treaty referendum, they also warned against the treaty negotiation process and called for strength by First Nations to fight government and big business efforts to take their land and resources. Obvious by their absence were high profile Native leaders who have chosen to support other strategies that are being pursued by the First Nations Summit, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and a coalition of churches and labour and community groups. They're encouraging voters to boycott the referendum but to sign their ballots and then get them to the First Nations organizations that are collecting them. Then they will be presented to government to illustrate the strength of opposition. As of April 19, Elections BC reported that a total of 535,000 referendum ballots have been returned with still a month until ballots are due on May 15.

Despite the negative treaty referendum, there's a glimmer of hope for First Nations - BC Government relations. The province's Minister responsible for treaty negotiations said the Gov't is still looking to make deals with First Nations - issue by issue. Union of BC Indian Chiefs President Stewart Phillip is reported to be excited by Attorney General Geoff Plant's call for a new approach to treaty making. He proposed working on separate agreements on individual issues, such as education, land rights, co-management of resources, health etc. Plant said those individual agreements could be the basis of treaty making. It's something that intrigues Chief Phillip who along with many others are not involved in the BC treaty process but have been looking for creative ways to negotiate with governments

April 18, 2002 - The Campbell Government is losing support for its Treaty Referendum. Current support levels are 6 percentage points lower than 4 months ago when 60 per cent supported the decision to hold the referendum. Almost three-in-four people in BC do not see anything positive emerging from the referendum when it comes to treaty negotiations with BC’s aboriginal peoples. An Ipsos-Reid Poll says a majority of British Columbians believe the referendum will be harmful. A solid majority of people in British Columbia 60 per cent now feel the referendum is a waste of money, given other government priorities. The poll says British Columbians are losing enthusiasm for the referendum due in part to a concern about the consequences for treaty negotiations. 52 per cent believe it could have a more negative than positive effect. One-in-three 32 per cent think the effect could be -very negative-. Daniel Savas, Senior Vice-President with Ipsos-Reid in Vancouver said--The Liberal government has gambled that the referendum can inject a degree of momentum to the treaty process, and thereby bring public support behind its efforts. The challenge for the Liberals will be to make the results useable, that is translate them into action at the treaty negotiation table. This will be especially important given the expectations the government raised by holding the referendum in the first place. If it doesn’t deliver the goods in terms of a rejuvenated treaty process, or worse, if further delays in the process happen, the Liberals could lose credibility on this issue.--

April 17, 2002 - BC's Treaty Referendum has stirred up racial controversy. The Mounties are investigating a web site www.bcwhitepride.com that pits whites against Aboriginals regarding the referendum. For example in a statement on the benefits of the treaty referendum "... will go down in Canadian history as enabling the most fundamental symbolic expression of White unity since racial pride went out of style almost 40 years ago. The genius of the referendum is that no matter how the vote turns out, Whites will benefit insofar as discussions at the dinner table and the coffee shop will revolve around the issue of preferential status for non-Whites in British Columbia and Canada as a whole. The multibillion dollar taxpayer obligation imposed by the NISGA'A (No Indian Should Get Additional Assets) Treaty, engineered by the NDP (Native Debt Party), was the single most profound mistake in recent British Columbian history and we'll all be paying for it for many years to come." Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs expressed his outrage on learning that a white supremacy group is using the BC Treaty Referendum to recruit new members. “We stated from the outset of this immoral exercise that it would provide a forum for the public expression of racist views against First Nations. White Pride is stating that the referendum is ‘will go down in Canadian history as enabling the most fundamental symbolic expression of White unity since racial pride went out of style almost 40 years ago.’ This hate mongering dramatically proves our conjecture that the referendum is racist.”

While some create hurtful issues related to the referendum, others are poking fun at it. The following comes from the web site http://www.artfulballot.org -- British Columbians confused and frustrated with the Treaty Referendum now have the opportunity to win prizes and show off their artistic talents, thanks to the Artful Ballot Contest announced today by Society To Understand and Promote Innovative Defiance of the Referendum STUPID Referendum. Prizes include over $500.00 in cash, and a variety of special gifts donated by STUPID Referendum supporters. Prizes will be awarded for Best ballot origami - Highest free-standing ballot structure - Best ballot limerick - Best ballot installation art piece - Best ballot questions - Best ballot hat - Best ballot bonfire.

Sto:lo Nation Chiefs and Elders called on BC residents to reject the treaty referendum process. They also decided that no matter what happens with the treaty process Sto:lo will go ahead with self government plans, including pursuing the possibility of bilateral self government negotiations with Canada, and excluding the province.

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PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17th, 2002

White Supremacists and the BC Treaty Referendum

(Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory/April 17, 2002) Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs expressed his outrage on learning that a white supremacy group is using the BC Treaty Referendum to recruit new members. “We stated from the outset of this immoral exercise that it would provide a forum for the public expression of racist views against First Nations. White Pride is stating that the referendum is ‘will go down in Canadian history as enabling the most fundamental symbolic expression of White unity since racial pride went out of style almost 40 years ago.’ This hate mongering dramatically proves our conjecture that the referendum is racist.”

Chief Phillip continued to state, “The referendum is playing on the uninformed majority about the constitutionally enshrined and judicially recognized Aboriginal Title and Rights that exist in this province. Democracy is much more than ballots being burned in protest, democracy is the recognition that the rights of the minority cannot be subjected to the majority in a ‘amateurish’ and clumsy process based on ambiguous questions with a preconceived outcome.

“We are working with the First Nations Summit, the United Native Nations and a growing coalition of political, labour, church and concerned citizens who adamantly oppose the referendum. We are collecting unsigned ballots throughout the province and will present them in protest to the provincial government at the conclusion of this immoral exercise” concluded Chief Phillip.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Chief Stewart Phillip
President, UBCIC
Cell: (250) 490-5314
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/referendum.htm

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April 10, 2002
United Church Jumps Into Referendum Debate

A referendum is not a helpful or appropriate vehicle to use with respect to treaty negotiations. United Church adds its voice to the growing chorus of naysayers against the BC Treaty Referendum. United Church officials recommend its members write VOID across the ballot and make sure it is signed and then delivered to the office of the BC Conference of the United Church of Canada. An independent auditor will count and tally the ballots and re-seal the ballot box. BC Conference will deliver the count and the sealed ballot box to the First Nations Summit, who will issue a report on the total results of the count. The United Church made it clear that the ballots are not to be burned but to be delivered to the government.
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BC business interests didn't want
a treaty referendum in the first place


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British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
10 April 2002 For Immediate Release

Civil rights group calls for boycott of "REFERENDUMB"

The BCCLA is calling upon all British Columbians to boycott the provincial government's ill-conceived referendum on aboriginal treaty negotiations. Far from an example of direct democracy, this referendum is nothing more than the government's attempt to fulfill a campaign promise they clearly wish they had never made. Far better that the entire referendum idea was abandoned than to invite British Columbians to participate in this demeaning comedy.

Says BCCLA President John Dixon,"This process is not an exercise in direct democracy. It is a REFERENDUMB. Citizens are being asked questions designed to mislead and misinform, the answers to which will be in no way binding upon the government. The entire process is illegitimate, and the BCCLA urges British Columbians to turn their backs on it."

The BCCLA believes that referenda can be an effective and legitimate form of participatory democracy. But to qualify as such, they must ask simple questions—preferably on finite policy issues, such as "shall we build the bridge"—which at least possibly admit of intelligent "yes" or "no" answers. Questions of deep principle, such as those raised by the treaty process, cannot be dealt with in such a simplistic fashion. Nor is it appropriate for questions of minority rights to be determined by majoritarian decision making in the context of a referendum. Together with the vague and misleading nature of the questions being asked and the fact that any result in the referendum will have no real binding effect on the government's stance in treaty negotiations, these factors lead to only one conclusion: this referendum is unworthy of the participation of our citizenry.

There is some confusion in the community as to the best way to register your dissatisfaction with the "referendumb". The BCCLA believes that the clearest and most effective way is simply to refuse to participate. As John Dixon says," Do whatever else you might like with your ballot: mail it to Geoff Plant with an explanation of your reasons for not voting, give it to a First Nations organization to be burned, or shred it and use it for compost. But whatever you do, don't legitimate this illegitimate process."

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April 9, 2002
UNN Calls for Civil Disobedience
as part of Anti-Referendum Strategy

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2002

The United Native Nations Society, a provincial advocacy organization is seeking your support to actively boycott the provincial referendum on the principles of the British Columbia treaty process.

All provincial residents of British Columbia have a voice in the BC treaty process whether it be through municipal, provincial or federal elections by electing those representatives and we also have further representation through local and regional advisory boards that participate in the treaty process. How many layers of participation do British Columbians want or need?

The real issue here is whether or not the BC Liberals are committed to fair and just negotiations with BC First Nations and the federal government. We cannot support a majority voting on minority rights (in this case, constitutionally protected rights). The UNN does not support a referendum when the questions are confusing and ambiguous.

The responsible action of this government would be to drop this referendum and admit they made a mistake and return to negotiate treaties in a fair and equitable way that the federal government has already instructed the provincial government to do.

The UNN supports non-violent civil disobedience in relationship to the ballot. We are seeking your support to collect and deface ballots and forward those spoiled ballots to the UNN provincial office and we will work with other community organizations in developing a strategy to address the community concerns to the BC Liberal government.

Do not participate and send your ballot in.
Forward your spoiled ballots to:

United Native Nations Society – Provincial Office
110, 425 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 6E3

For further information
contact Scott Clark, President at
(604) 688-1821, toll-free 1-800-555-9756 or (604) 219-7190.

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Click Here for United Church Action

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BC NDP Newswire
BC NDP SUPPORTS GROUPS CALLING FOR ACTIVE BOYCOTT OF REFERENDUM
April 9, 2002

The British Columbia New Democratic Party is working with aboriginal, faith and community organizations to promote an "active boycott" of the referendum.

"An active boycott provides a choice for individuals who want to express their opposition to the referendum process by redirecting their unsigned ballot to a local band office, labour council or church," explained BC NDP President Maura Parte.

Noting that aboriginal groups have argued that sending a spoiled ballot to the government will lend credibility to the process and may make it easier for the referendum questions to pass, BC NDP Provincial Secretary Ed Lavalle explained that the Party is not recommending a "no" vote because the questions are too ambiguous, allowing the Liberal government to interpret the answers to fit their political goals.

"That's why so many organizations around the province are advocating some form of boycott," said Lavalle. "The Party is supporting the active boycott being led by prominent aboriginal organizations because it allows concerned individuals to redirect their unsigned ballot as a form of protest and an act of conscience."

Individuals who wish to support the active boycott should present their unsigned, blank ballots to one of the many groups collecting them for disposal. These groups include:

First Nations Summit
208-1999 Marine Drive
North Vancouver, BC V7P 3J3

Union of BC Indian Chiefs
5th Floor, 342 Water Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 1B6

United Native Nations
110-425 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC V6B 6E6

Chief Judith Sayers
Hupacasath First Nation
Box 211
5323 River Road
Port Alberni, BC V9Y 7M7

Other collection points around the province will be identified in the coming days. A list of local band offices participating in the collection and disposal of unsigned, blank ballots will be posted on the following web sites later this week:

First Nations Summit:
www.fns.bc.ca

Union of BC Indian Chiefs:
www.ubcic.bc.ca

United Native Nations:
www.unns.bc.ca

The United Church has also said that it will collect unsigned, blank ballots for disposal. Individuals are encouraged to contact their local parish, or send ballots to :

United Chuch Conference Office
4383 Rumble Street
Burnaby, BC V5J 2A2

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April 8, 2002
Treaty Referendum condemned
by broad coalition of
labour, community and religious leaders

At a joint news conference in Vancouver today, leaders of BC's faith communities, non-profit societies, community organizations, trade unions and the environmental movement joined forces to urge British Columbians to abstain from participation in the provincial government's mail-in referendum on treaty rights.

The BC First Nations Summit last week called for a boycott of the referendum. The statement released today rejects the referendum on moral, legal and socio-economic grounds.

"We believe that a bright future for our province can only be assured by reconciliation of the interests and rights of non-Aboriginal British Columbians with the rights and title of BC's First Nations," said B.C. Federation of Labour President Jim Sinclair.

"Instead of wasting over $8 million on an offensive referendum, the province should resume active treaty negotiations," noted George Heyman, President of the B.C. Government & Service Employees' Union.

"This process is anti-democratic and will lead to chaos," said Maureen Shaw, President of the College Institute Educators' Association.

"The tyranny of the majority must be rejected outright," said Muslim Canadian Foundation President Aziz Khaki.

"At a time when our provincial economy is in shambles and the environment is being eroded, we should be coming together with First Nations," said Jim Fulton, Executive Director of the Suzuki Foundation.

"This referendum is only tearing us apart."

The best course for British Columbians who support the treaty process is to abstain, today's statement says.

-30-

For more information, contact Geoff Meggs: 604-220-0739.

The full text of the statement The statement is supported by the following groups and individuals: BC Association of Community Law Offices Executive Committee, BC Coalition of Women's Centres, B.C. Federation of Labour, BC Human Rights Coalition, BC Government and Service Employees' Union, College Institute Educators' Association, Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations, Father Jim Roberts, Hotel, Restaurant & Culinary Employees' & Bartenders Union, Industrial Wood & Allied Workers of Canada, Muslim Canadian Federation, Office & Professional Employees' Union Local 378, Paul Winn, QC, Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, Suzuki Foundation, Vancouver Status of Women.

SUPPORT ABORIGINAL RIGHTS - BOYCOTT THE TREATY REFERENDUM:

Suzuki Foundation executive director Jim Fulton, BCGEU president George Heyman, Canadian Federation of Students B.C. chair Summer McFayden and David Cadman, president of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, were among the dozen community leaders, including a representative of B.C.'s Anglican Archbishop, who spoke out in solidarity with aboriginal peoples at a press conference Monday, April 8.

April 8, 2002

A Message to the People of British Columbia
BC Federation of Labour

Only fair and honourable treaties with BC’s First Nations can provide the reconciliation, the social justice and the economic opportunity our province so desperately seeks.

In communities across BC, treaties will make for good business, good relationships and good opportunities. Every finalized treaty will lead to greater economic certainty for British Columbia. Treaties will open the door to investors who have avoided our province due to continued uncertainty over lands and resources.

Time and again, the highest courts in this country have confirmed that negotiating treaties is the best and most effective way to resolve the land question in British Columbia.

Regrettably, the referendum now under way in this province is a step back from the treaty process. It will postpone the day of reconciliation, not hasten it.

Why?

First of all, it is wrong to use the referendum process on questions of fundamental rights.

Secondly, the questions in the treaty process are ambiguous and misleading. It is likely that voters with opposing views on certain aspects of the treaty process will vote the same way on some questions, rendering the result worthless. This undermines the integrity of the referendum process.

Finally, the referendum debate is likely to produce confusion and division in our province, postponing the conclusion of treaties and extending the economic and social uncertainty we face in the absence of treaties.

For all these reasons, we the undersigned respectfully recommend to our fellow British Columbians to abstain from participation in this referendum.

By your abstention, you will demonstrate your commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, your support for the treaty process and your respect for democracy.

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April 8, 2002 - Solidarity with First Nations was strengthened as the BC Federation of Labour lanuched a campaign to join the province-wide strategy to fight the treaty referendum.

In a statement to its affiliates, labour councils and the people of British Columbia, the Federation said "Only fair and honorable treaties with BC's First Nations can provide the reconciliation, the social justice and the economic opportunity our province so desperately seeks. In communities across BC, treaties will make for good business, good relationships and good opportunities. Every finalized treaty will lead to greater economic certainty for British Columbia. Treaties will open the door to investors who have avoided our province due to continued uncertainty over lands and resources. Time and again, the highest courts in this country have confirmed that negotiating treaties is the best and most effective way to resolve the land question in British Columbia. Regrettably, the referendum now under way in this province is a step back from the treaty process. It will postpone the day of reconciliation, not hasten it."

The BC Federation of Labour said" ... the referendum debate is likely to produce confusion and division in our province, postponing the conclusion of treaties and extending the economic and social uncertainty we face in the absence of treaties." It urges voters to abstain from the referendum process " Throw your ballot away or contact your local church, band office or labour council to see if unused ballots are being collected as part of a local or regional effort to show solidarity with First Nations and support for the Treaty process."

Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
April 8, 2002

WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR REFERENDUM BALLOT

We are working with other organizations to promote an "active boycott" strategy. The idea is to redirect unsigned ballots to specified collection points instead of sending them to Elections BC to be counted.

WHAT IS AN ACTIVE BOYCOTT?

An active boycott provides a choice for individuals who want to express their opposition to the referendum process by redirecting their unsigned ballot to a local band office, labour council or church.

WHY AN ACTIVE BOYCOTT?

An active boycott allows the individual to redirect their unsigned ballot as a form of protest and an act of conscience. Sending a “spoiled ballot” to Elections BC will lend creditability to the process and may make it easier for the referendum questions to pass. The adopted regulations state “the outcome of the vote for each question is based on a threshold of 50 percent plus 1 of the validly cast votes for that question.” A spoiled ballot does not count as a “validly cast vote.” Voting no is problematic as the questions are so ambiguous that the Liberal government can interpret the answers to reflect their political goals.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE UNSIGNED BALLOTS?

The unsigned ballots will be counted. Unsigned ballots will be presented, in protest, to the Government of British Columbia or the ballots will be disposed of at a public ceremony.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE REFERENDUM PROCESS?

The questions are problematic not only for what they include, but also for what they exclude. Many of the questions are recycled status-quo positions, which the Province has advanced to deny constitutionally enshrined aboriginal rights. The Province has advanced these arguments through the courts, where they were resoundingly rejected.

Absent in the referendum is any reference to a mandate to acknowledges Crown obligations owed to Aboriginal peoples or attempt to address a century of denial of rights and title. There is no mandate to take steps to ensure the survival of distinct First Nations within their territories - by focusing on language survival, to facilitate education for non-aboriginal people about Aboriginal peoples or provide access to higher education for Aboriginal peoples.

The right of self-determination is entirely absent from the mandate. Nor do the questions reflect a mandate which addresses how reconciliation will occur between the pre-existence of Aboriginal societies and the assertion of Crown sovereignty, how Aboriginal peoples can make decisions as to how the land will be used, while at the same time, co-existing with federal and provincial laws.

No attention is paid to providing a path for Aboriginal Peoples and the Federal and Provincial governments to achieve a just resolution of the Land Question and thereby accomplish an enduring and lasting reconcilation between all parties.

SEND YOUR UNSIGNED BALLOT TO:

Chief Stewart Phillip
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
500 - 342 Water Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B-1B6

OR

Chief Judith Sayers
Hupacasath First Nation
5323 River Road, Box 211
Port Alberni, BC
V9Y 7M7

For further information go to
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/referendum.htm
or call UBCIC at (604) 684-0231

NEWS RELEASE

Referendum Court Action Launched

April 7 2002--The First Nations Treaty Negotiations Alliance (FNTNA), which represents more than 40 First Nations negotiating treaties with BC and Canada, has launched a court challenge against the BC Liberal Government's referendum on treaty negotiations.

"While we fully support public input, our legal action asserts that it is fundamentally wrong and in breach of the Canadian Constitution to put the rights and interests of First Nations in current and future treaty negotiations to a vote of the majority of British Columbians," said Robert Morales, Chief Negotiator of the Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group and spokesperson for the FNTNA.

The court action challenges the referendum on the basis that it is discriminatory according to Section 15 (equality rights) in the Charter of Rights & Freedoms and Section 35 (aboriginal rights) in the Constitution. Furthermore, the lawsuit contends the provincial government has exceeded its jurisdiction by conducting a referendum on certain aboriginal rights such as self-government.

First Nations are asking the BC Supreme Court to uphold the principle that the Crown is obliged to act honourably while conducting treaty negotiations in good faith and to act reasonably in light of the historic wrongs inflicted upon First Nations, whose aboriginal rights and title, though affirmed by the courts, have been consistently denied.

"We will also demonstrate to the court the inherent unfairness of the referendum. The people of BC have not been well informed, and in some cases have been misinformed by the government about the rights and history of First Nations," Morales said. "Furthermore, the referendum process provides no control over how organizations and individuals with significant financial resources can influence the outcome through media and paid advertising.

Instead of engaging in meaningful treaty negotiations with First Nations to resolve the issues that have stalled the treaty process, Morales said Gordon Campbell and his government are trying to derail the process through referendum questions crafted to generate responses that support pre-existing government positions on treaty issues.

"The treaty process involves three equal participants, the Governments of BC and Canada and First Nations. Without any consultation or input from the other participants, the Liberal government through its referendum, is now trying to change the rules that were in place when First Nations made the decision to borrow millions of dollars to participate in treaty making."

Morales said the Liberals should be concerned that our province is losing countless investment dollars because of the current uncertainty over ownership and rights to specific land and resources. "Unlike most Canadian provinces, which have already settled treaties, it appears the BC government would prefer to spend millions of dollars on future court cases to decide who has jurisdiction over land and resources in BC."

The FNTNA, which represents many First Nations on Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and in the Interior, has invited all BC First Nations to join forces in this court challenge. Individual aboriginal people are also participating.

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Contact:
Robert Morales:
250-245-4660; 250-246-0949 OR
htg-rmorales@shaw.ca

April 6, 2002 - The Trek for Treaties banner shows a picture of a brown hand shaking a white hand, illlustrating support for First Nations fight to protect their rights.

click here for more photos

Stop the Referendum. Boycott the Referendum. Burn your Ballots. The messages to the BC government were clear, as more than a hundred people, most of them non-natives gathered in front of the BC Legislature buildings late Friday afternoon to support First Nations in their fight against the treaty referendum. The gathering was called as a way of honouring a small, dedicated group who spent the past week walking from Nanaimo to Victoria in what was billed as the Trek for Treaties. Meanwhile, in Toronto in a speech to a business group, Premier Campbell said protestors will be ignored and only those who participate in the referendum will have their voices heard by his government.

April 4, 2002

Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers said "anger and racism" have been unleashed in British Columbia because of the treaty referendum. According to the First Nations Summit "The upcoming provincial referendum on aboriginal treaties is a blatant political smokescreen to buy time for a BC Liberal government adrift in a sea of red ink and broken promises. This is the angry claim of aboriginal leaders urging British Columbians to join them in a boycott of the planned referendum."

Meanwhile, the Summit wrote to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Minister of Justice seeking help in taking the BC Treaty Referendum to the Supreme Court of Canada to clarify its legality and constitutionality. As well, the Summit is concerned there may be CHarter of Rights violations in the BC referendum. The Summit challenges the right of the province's referendum, questions and regulations "they address matters that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. The provincial government intends its proposed referendum to unilaterally restrict the outcomes of treaty negotiations in respect of issues that are beyond its authority as set out in the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Constitution Act, 1982. The province is, in effect, attempting to limit what can be agreed upon in respect of these federal matters by subjecting provincial negotiation positions to what it has said will be a legally binding process under the Referendum Act. Moreover, the eight questions and the mail-in ballot process for the referendum may violate the equality rights set out in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The questions seem designed to make our constitutionally protected aboriginal rights subject to the will of a majority of British Columbians who vote in the referendum."

There is a growing coalition of political, labour, church and concerned citizens who all agree that the referendum is immoral and unconscionable. That's what Chief Stewart Phillip said in Vancouver after he and other First Nation leaders held a ballot burning ceremony. Chief Phillip, the President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said, "The process is a sham and only serves to vilify our efforts to reconcile our Aboriginal Title and Rights with the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.” He explained that at the heart of the matter is "First Nations have a constitutional relationship with both the Provincial and Federal governments. Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada guides the current relationship and has been clarified through the various court decisions. The referendum process continues the longstanding adversarial approach undertaken by both the Provincial and Federal Government of their outright refusal to recognize Aboriginal Title and Rights."

The BC Federation of Labour recommends "Throw your ballot away or contact your local church, band office or labour council to see if unused ballots are being collected as part of a local or regional effort to show solidarity with First Nations and support for the Treaty process."

Kathryn Teneese, First Nations Summit executive in a recent interview expressed fears that if the treaty-making machinery is threatened, the province may well face a flashback to the troubled 1970s and 1980s – when blockades, sit-ins, and rallies were the order of the day. That uncertainty over unresolved land claims also had economic fallout. In 1990, PricewaterhouseCoopers calculated the cost to BC of not settling land claims to be $1 billion in lost investment and 1,500 jobs a year in the mining and forestry sectors alone. "What got the different levels of government to the table in the first place?" asks Ms. Teneese. "It was uncertainty. That’s what’s going to happen again. I ask Mr. Campbell and his advisors: What kind of message are we sending to boardrooms of the world, as we get set to start lobbying for the 2010 Whistler Olympics?"

There are more than two hundred thousand members of the Anglican Church in British Columbia, and they are being urged to vote against the province's treaty referendum.

Although specific strategies may differ - already teachers, Native UVIC students, New Democrats, sixteen tribal councils, the First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs have publicly expressed their oppositon.

Now all four Anglican bishops in British Columbia are telling church members throughout the province that the that the provincial referendum on Aboriginal treaty negotiations raises "serious questions."

In a pastoral letter to be read from pulpits all across the province April 7, the bishops refer all Anglicans to the recommendations of an Anglican Task Force that urged a 'no' vote, or a 'protest' vote.

The bishops, spiritual leaders to Anglicans in about 200 churches and congregations in the province, say that the decision how to vote is "a matter of individual conscience."

But they urge church members "to study and learn about the complexities of treaty claims and negotiations-" and emphasize the Anglican Task Force's recommendations.

The 18 member Aboriginal Treaties Referendum Task Force recommended to Anglicans that if they choose to participate in the referendum, they should vote 'no' to all questions.

If they choose not to participate, they should register a protest rather than spoil their ballots. This can be done by signing the certification envelope as a registered voter, but leaving the ballot blank and mail it in as instructed.

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DO NOT VOTE
In Gordon Campbell’s referendum on treaty negotiations

The First Nations Summit is asking British Columbians to join in a boycott of the upcoming referendum on treaty negotiations. By choosing not to vote, you will send a clear message to Premier Campbell:

In this country, the rights of a minority must never be subject to the whim of the majority.

The referendum guarantees continued economic uncertainty in British Columbia as land claims remain unresolved. The BC Liberals are sending the wrong message to boardrooms here and around the world.

The $10-million-plus cost to taxpayers is a moral outrage at a time when our health care and education services are under attack. The money could keep hospitals open or pay for a new school. Yet the BC Liberals are spending the money even as they slash critical programs and services, throwing thousands out of work.

We already have a process to make treaties. It needs to be made more effective, more timely and more results-based, yes. But to threaten this process at such a crucial time defies common sense.

First Nations Summit
www.fns.bc.ca

Let’s get back to the negotiating table. Now.

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First Nations Summit Calls on Minister of Indian Affairs and Minister of Justice to Help Take the BC Treaty Referendum
to the Supreme Court of Canada

March 28, 2002

The Honourable Robert Nault
Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H4
Fax: (819) 953-4941

The Honourable Martin Cauchon
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H8
Fax: (613) 957-3559

The Honourable Geoff Plant
Attorney General and
Minister Responsible for Treaty Negotiations
PO Box 9044, Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Fax: (250) 387-6411

Dear Ministers:

Re: Proposed Reference on British Columbia Referendum on Treaty Negotiation Principles

We are writing to request that the legality and constitutionality of the British Columbia Government’s proposed referendum on treaty negotiation principles be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada immediately.

In particular, we ask that the Governor in Council, with the support of the Government of British Columbia, develop a question or questions for consideration by the Supreme Court of Canada under section 53 of the Supreme Court Act. In order to ensure that BC First Nations’ concerns are properly addressed in the reference, we propose that a tripartite legal team with representatives of Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit be established to formulate the specific question or questions. As you know, the First Nations Summit represents those First Nations that have chosen to participate in the British Columbia treaty process, and who will therefore be most affected by the referendum.

It is clear that the Treaty Negotiations Referendum Regulation and, in particular, the questions set out in Schedule 2 of that Regulation are ultra vires the provincial government in that they address matters that are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867. The provincial government intends its proposed referendum to unilaterally restrict the outcomes of treaty negotiations in respect of issues that are beyond its authority as set out in the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Constitution Act, 1982. The province is, in effect, attempting to limit what can be agreed upon in respect of these federal matters by subjecting provincial negotiation positions to what it has said will be a legally binding process under the Referendum Act.

Moreover, the eight questions and the mail-in ballot process for the referendum may violate the equality rights set out in section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The questions seem designed to make our constitutionally protected aboriginal rights subject to the will of a majority of British Columbians who vote in the referendum.

Furthermore, the questions fail to meet the standard of clarity set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Reference re Secession of Quebec. All are expressed vaguely, using words like “should” which may or may not admit of exceptions. Some, such as the question on self-government, might receive a “no” vote both from those who believe that First Nations should not have any self-government, and from those who understand that the right of self-government is inherent, not delegated, and must include more powers than those of municipal governments. How would the provincial government be able to interpret a “no” vote on this question?

Finally, proceeding with the referendum neither upholds the honour of the Crown nor meets the requirement to negotiate treaties in good faith and therefore is in breach of the Crown’s fiduciary duty to First Nations.

We note that the federal government has indicated that it does not support the referendum. Given the federal government’s concerns, we believe that its fiduciary obligation requires it to vigorously protect First Nations in these circumstances by ensuring that our constitutionally protected rights are not jeopardized or violated and that the process of reconciliation is not brought to an end. Our proposal for a reference to the Supreme Court of Canada is made in this context.

We regret that despite the warnings from First Nations, third parties and the federal government that the referendum will be detrimental to, and may even destroy, the treaty process, the province nevertheless intends to forward the referendum packages to BC voters next week. This referendum will inevitably cause social, political and economic damage and will jeopardize any progress made to date towards fair settlements. We call upon your governments, as parties to the tripartite treaty process, to ensure, at the very least, that the referendum procedure and questions are legally and constitutionally valid before the referendum takes place.

It will be little consolation to First Nations if, after the referendum has been conducted, the courts hold it to have been illegal. Such an outcome will also be the source of considerable frustration to the citizens of British Columbia who will bear the $9-20 million cost of the referendum. By then, most of the social, political and economic damage will have been done and it will take years to repair that damage. Any progress that has been made in building new relationships may very well be lost.

If the provincial government is unwilling to support and participate in the development of a question or questions to be referred to the Supreme Court of Canada, we request the federal government to proceed on its own with the involvement and support of the First Nations Summit in formulating the reference questions.

In the event that the federal government determines not to refer the referendum questions and process to the Supreme Court of Canada, we urge the Lieutenant Governor in Council to refer the matter to the British Columbia Court of Appeal under section 1 of the Constitutional Question Act, again with the involvement and support of the First Nations Summit as described above.

We trust that you will give urgent consideration to this request and we suggest that we meet with you at the earliest possible date to discuss the matter further.

Sincerely,
First Nations Summit Task Group
Kathryn Teneese
Gerald D. Wesley
Hemas (Bill Wilson)

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PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 4, 2002

Broad Coalition Building Against Immoral Referendum

(Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory/April 4, 2002) Tribal council representatives held a press conference today to speak their opposition of the current provincial referendum process. In protest, representatives from the 16 tribal councils symbolically burned ballots.

Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was present and commented afterwards “Today was the first of many events where people from across the province will actively boycott the referendum. The process is a sham and only serves to vilify our efforts to reconcile our Aboriginal Title and Rights with the Province of British Columbia and the Government of Canada.”

First Nations have a constitutional relationship with both the Provincial and Federal governments. Section 35 of the Constitution of Canada guides the current relationship and has been clarified through the various court decisions. The referendum process continues the longstanding adversarial approach undertaken by both the Provincial and Federal Government of their outright refusal to recognize Aboriginal Title and Rights.

Chief Phillip concluded, “We are working with a growing coalition of political, labour, church and concerned citizens who all agree that referendum is immoral and unconscionable. We will be advocating an ‘active boycott’ and will be soon encouraging people, in the coming days, to direct their ballots to one of many collection points throughout the province.”

– 30 –

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Chief Stewart Phillip
President, UBCIC
Cell: (250) 490-5314

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Students' Society Urges Boycott of Treaty Referendum
April 4, 2002

In response to the BC Liberals referendum on treaty negotiations, the University of Victoria Students' Society is asking students, faculty, staff and community members to boycott the process.

Ballots are currently being mailed out to all registered voters in British Columbia. The ballots contain eight questions concerning Aboriginal rights and the treaty process. However, the questions are so ambiguous that there is no clear way to reject the premises of the referendum by voting no. Aboriginal organizations, including the Native Students' Union, see the referendum as fundamentally unconstitutional and disrespectful, and are asking supporters to boycott the process by returning unused ballots to organizations that are collecting them as a show of solidarity.

The Students' Society Resource Centre in the Student Union Building (Rm. B103) will be uses as a collection site for boycotted ballots. The Students' Society urges you to bring your blank ballot to the Resource Centre as a means of protesting the referendum.

Ballot Instructions:

* Place unanswered ballots into the envelope provided (there are two envelopes provided, but you can ignore the 'secrecy envelope' as your ballot will not be marked).

* Fill out required information (i.e. name, address, etc) on the outside of the envelope

* Bring ballot, in sealed envelope, to the University of Victoria Students' Society Resource Centre (Rm. B103) in the Student Union Building and place in the boycott ballot box provided. Or drop them off in the NSU office SUB b020.

For more information on the referendum, please contact the University of Victoria Students' Society at 721-8366 or resource@uvic.ca or NSU at 472-4394 or nsu@uvic.ca

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April 4, 2002

Bishops tell Anglicans throughout British Columbia
Treaty Negotiations Referendum raises "serious questions"

All four Anglican bishops in British Columbia are telling church members throughout British Columbia that the that the provincial referendum on Aboriginal treaty negotiations raises "serious questions."

In a pastoral letter read from pulpits all across the province April 7, the bishops refer all Anglicans to the recommendations of an Anglican Task Force that urged a 'no' vote, or a 'protest' vote.

The bishops, spiritual leaders to Anglicans in about 200 churches and congregations in the province, say that the decision how to vote is "a matter of individual conscience." But they urge church members "to study and learn about the complexities of treaty claims and negotiations" and emphasize the Anglican Task Force's recommendations.

An 18 member Aboriginal Treaties Referendum Task Force recommended to Anglicans that if they choose to participate in the referendum, they should vote 'no' to all questions.

If they choose not to participate, they should register a protest rather than spoil their ballots. This can be done by signing the certification envelope as a registered voter, but leaving the ballot blank and mail it in as instructed.

Bishop Michael Ingham appointed a task force early in 2002 to give him and the Diocesan Council advice on to react to the provincial government's announced plan to hold a referendum on Aboriginal treaties.

Archbishop David Crawley of the Diocese of Kootenay, who is Metropolitan (senior bishop) of the five dioceses in British Columbia, then asked the group to also advise him. Membership on the task force was expanded to include Anglicans from throughout the province.

Eventually, the task force's report went to the attention of all four Anglican bishops in British Columbia, who also include Bishop Barry Jenks of the Diocese of British Columbia (Vancouver Island), and Bishop William Anderson, Bishop of Caledonia (northern BC).

The provincial government started conducting the provincial Aboriginal Treaty Negotiations Referendum April 2 by sending out mail-in ballots, which are due back May 15. The referendum consists of eight questions, each to be answered 'yes' or 'no.'

All four bishops signed the pastoral letter. It states that Anglicans come before God "as the same, penitent sinners…no one gets more, no one gets less." In view of what they call this 'radical equality,' the bishops question the very idea of a referendum on Aboriginal treaties.

"Should or indeed can the rights of a minority, which have been acknowledged to exist by the courts of the land, be subject of a vote by a majority?" asks the pastoral letter.

The Task Force was made up of both priests and lay members, and reported In March. It included Anglicans from all areas of the province, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. Chief Alfred Scow, OC, a retired provincial court judge and hereditary Kwicksutaineuk chief, and a member of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver chaired it.

BC Bishops Release Pastoral Letter on Referendum
April 4, 2002

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

We, the Bishops of British Columbia, write to you on a matter that concerns all Christians and citizens of this province. At the very core of our faith lies the concept of 'radical equality'. When we come to the altar to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord, we all come as the same, penitent sinners, and we all receive the same gift of grace. No one gets more; no one gets less. True Christian community is based not on common interests, social standing or life circumstances, but on making real among us this 'radical equality'. The extent to which we do so is the extent to which we reflect the Realm of God. Further, as individual Christians and as communities of Christians, our purpose is to bring the Realm of God into being in our world. We do so by struggling to extend throughout society the 'radical equality' that is the nature of the Realm of God.

As citizens of British Columbia, we are asked to take part in what is being called a Referendum on Treaty Negotiations. Some months ago, a Task Force to study the issue was set up jointly by the Diocese of New Westminster and Archbishop Crawley, the Metropolitan. The Task Force is broadly based geographically and includes aboriginal Christians.

The 'referendum' raises serious questions for us.

Should or indeed can the rights of a minority, which have been acknowledged to exist by the courts of the land, be the subject of a vote by the majority?

Is this a true referendum or is it more accurately described as a poll?

Is it right for the government to consider the results of such a ballot binding no matter how few citizens take part in it?

Will the 'referendum' enhance or harm the process of treaty negotiations which are necessary for the 'common good' of our province?

How should we, as Christians, respond to the 'referendum ballot' when we receive it?

The answer to the last question is, of course, a matter of individual conscience. The Task Force recommends the following:

If you choose to participate in the balloting, vote no to all questions.

If, because you disapprove of the very idea of the referendum, you choose not to participate, do not destroy your ballot. Instead, sign the certification envelope as a registered voter but leave the ballot blank and mail it in as instructed. Your ballot will be recorded and reported as a rejected ballot.

Finally, we ask all Anglicans to study and learn about the complexities of treaty claims and negotiations. There will be articles in various diocesan papers and a number already have been posted on the web site of the Diocese of New Westminster.

We believe the dominant political, social, economic and justice issue in the life of British Columbia for the next ten years will be the relationship of aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples and cultures.

To this end, we invite all members of the church to consider the gravity of the choices before us in the light of our vocation to bring into reality the Realm of God.

Yours in Christ,

David Crawley Archbishop of Kootenay

Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon
Bishop for the Central Interior

Barry Jenks Bishop of British Columbia

Michael Ingham Bishop of New Westminster

William Anderson Bishop of Caledonia

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Here is the Statement sent to Affiliates, Labour Councils, etc. by the BC Federation of Labour.

DRAFT STATEMENT

A Message to the People of British Columbia.

Only fair and honorable treaties with BC's First Nations can provide the reconciliation, the social justice and the economic opportunity our province so desperately seeks.

In communities across BC, treaties will make for good business, good relationships and good opportunities. Every finalized treaty will lead to greater economic certainty for British Columbia. Treaties will open the door to investors who have avoided our province due to continued uncertainty over lands and resources.

Time and again, the highest courts in this country have confirmed that negotiating treaties is the best and most effective way to resolve the land question in British Columbia.

Regrettably, the referendum now under way in this province is a step back from the treaty process. It will postpone the day of reconciliation, not hasten it.

Why?

First of all, it is wrong to use the referendum process on questions of fundamental rights. Secondly, the questions in the treaty process are ambiguous and misleading. It is likely that voters with opposing views on certain aspects of the treaty process will vote the same way on some questions, rendering the result worthless. This undermines the integrity of the referendum process. Finally, the referendum debate is likely to produce confusion and division in our province, postponing the conclusion of treaties and extending the economic and social uncertainty we face in the absence of treaties.

For all these reasons, we the undersigned respectfully recommend to our fellow British Columbians to abstain from participation in this referendum. By your abstention, you will demonstrate your commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, your support for the treaty process and your respect for democracy.

Questions and Answers

The Treaty Referendum: Why abstention is the best option

Why is a referendum a bad idea?

· The moral and legal rights of one group (First Nations) should not be determined by a majority. This is especially true when we are talking about constitutionally protected rights.

· First Nations have inherent rights that have been recognized and affirmed in the Constitution Act as well as in numerous court rulings up to the Supreme Court of Canada. The First Nations' preferred approach to resolving issues is through negotiation or litigation, not confrontation.

· The referendum is confusing and cannot provide meaningful direction to the province, but it can create division and tension, stall the treaty process and intensify existing economic instability.

· The issues the treaty process must address have largely been laid down in law, as have 19 commitments made by Canada, BC and First Nations as the foundation of the process. The BC Treaty Commission has warned that "those will not change, referendum or no referendum." If the BC government seeks to revise fundamental principles "there could be irreparable damage to the negotiation process."

Isn't the treaty process in crisis?

No, but it is at a turning point. In a review released last year, the BC Treaty Commission made this assessment:

Achievements of the treaty process

· Road blockades, confrontation and court cases have been replaced by negotiation.

· A formal province-wide process exists to address major common issues.

· 42 First Nations have advanced to agreement-in-principle since 1993; 12 offers have been exchanged on key issues; seven First Nations are at earlier stages. By contrast, the entire Nisga'a process took 23 years and the Yukon process 21 years.

· In the last 18 months more than 60 interim agreements have been signed on forestry, fisheries, land use and planning.

· A majority of British Columbians tell pollsters they support the treaty process.

Why the delays and cost?

· There are many more First Nations negotiating treaties than was anticipated - negotiators are overloaded.

· The Supreme Court of Canada's Delgamuukw decision in 1997 forced all parties to reeconsider their approach when it confirmed the existence of aboriginal title as a right to the land itself.

· Negotiations have been virtually suspended since the run-up to the federal election in 2000 and further slowed by the anticipated BC referendum.

What's needed to move forward?

· The BC Treaty Commission has assessed the first eight years of negotiation and developed five key proposals to move the process forward, including more interim agreements, intensified talks and other measures. They can be reviewed on the Commission's website at www.bctreaty.net in a comprehensive report called Looking Back, Looking Forward.

· Business, labour and community leaders agree that a referendum will not move treaties forward, but could irreparably harm the treaty process.

Isn't Gordon Campbell delivering on his election commitment?

· Campbell promised to "give all British Columbians a say on the principles that should guide BC's approach to treaty negotiations through a one-time, province-wide referendum." But the referendum questions are contradictory and touch on areas that are outside the provincial government's jurisdiction. There is no meaningful way for British Columbians to "have a say" through this process.

· The government has backed down on other commitments - including ones not to tear up contracts or to cut health and education.

· Premier Campbell said he supports resolution of treaties, but has cut spending on negotiations by 36 percent over three years. The number of treaty negotiators was cut by 41 percent.

· Sixty percent of those attending hearings of a Legislative Committee on the matter recommended that the referendum be scrapped. (Michael Smyth, Vancouver Province, March 14, 2002)

· Attorney General Geoff Plant personally edited the referendum questions to expand the cabinet's latitude to determine the final negotiating position. The final say will always rest with the provincial cabinet.

Why not spoil my ballot?

A spoiled ballot would be counted as a "rejected ballot" by Elections BC.

As Elections BC points out, "the outcome of the vote for each question is based on a threshold of 50 percent plus 1 of the validly cast votes for that question (total Yes and No votes). As rejected votes are not considered to be "validly cast", they are not included in the determination of the outcome of the vote for each question. Rejected votes lower the percentage of total ballots cast required for a question to pass or fail. " (emphasis added)

In other words, spoiled ballots actually make it easier for the referendum questions to pass.

Example:

If 100 voters cast votes for a question, and none of the votes are rejected, then the outcome of the vote for each question will be determined by 51 votes, and at least 51 percent of the votes. If 100 voters cast votes for a question, and 50 percent of the votes are rejected, then the outcome of the vote for each question will be determined by only 26 votes.

Why not vote no?

Several of the questions are so ambiguous they could be answered either way.

· For example, the first question asks voters to say "yes" or "no" to the statement "Private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements." In fact, private property has never been on the table in treaty talks, so a yes answer seems appropriate. On the other hand, would it not make sense to expropriate private property on a sacred site if that resolved a treaty? We do that to build bridges, why not to build treaties? In that sense, a no answer is best.

· Likewise, the referendum proposes the principle that "Aboriginal self-government should have the characteristics of local government, with powers delegated from Canada and British Columbia." Aboriginal people might argue for a "no" position, believing that aboriginal governments can only arise from the pre-existing laws and institutions of aboriginal peoples and can not be created by statute. Those who oppose treaty settlements of any sort would also vote no, on the basis that they oppose the "creation of a new level of government." Two diametrically-opposed perspectives could produce the same referendum answer.

What should I do with my ballot? Abstain from the referendum process

· Throw your ballot away or Contact your local church, band office or labour council to see if unused ballots are being collected as part of a local or regional effort to show solidarity with First Nations and support for the Treaty process.

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BC NDP Newswire - April 3, 2002

BC NDP URGES SUPPORTERS TO BOYCOTT REFERENDUM

The British Columbia New Democratic Party is asking its supporters across the province to boycott the referendum on treaty negotiations now in the mail.

The announcement was made last night during a province-wide teleconference meeting of the Party's Provincial Council delegates and constituency association representatives.

"There should be no referendum on minority rights," said Party President Maura Parte. "It's a waste of money at a time when the Liberals are crying poor, and instead of bringing British Columbians together it's going to drive us apart."

"B.C.'s economy is hurting," said Parte. "Our rural communities have already been hit hard enough - the last thing they need is the conflict and uncertainty that this referendum will bring."

"Only fair and honourable treaties with B.C.'s First Nations can provide the reconciliation, the social justice and the economic opportunity our province so desperately seeks."

"Aboriginal British Columbians are asking their fellow citizens to show their support for the treaty process by abstaining from participation in the referendum. The B.C. NDP is supporting that call. We are urging our members and supporters to boycott the referendum."

Provincial Secretary Ed Lavalle explained why the Party is not advocating spoiling ballots.

"Aboriginal representatives see the referendum as fundamentally unconstitutional and disrespectful," said Lavalle. "While they have suggested negotiation and reconciliation, the government has responded with questions which impose preconditions on the whole process."

"The aboriginal community feels that returning spoiled or blank ballots helps validate the referendum because it's a form of participation."

Lavalle added that the referendum questions are so ambiguous that there's no clear way to reject the premises of the referendum by voting no.

"No matter how the questions are answered, the Liberal government gets the answers it wants. That's why we're asking supporters to simply boycott the ballot by just throwing it away or giving it to local organizations who may be collecting unused ballots to show solidarity with First Nations."

-30-

For more news and information, visit www.bc.ndp.ca

-----------------


British Columbia Teacher's Federation
NEWS RELEASE
For immediate release
March 18, 2002

TEACHERS JOIN FIRST NATIONS IN OPPOSING TREATY REFERENDUM

Delegates to the B.C. Teachers' Federation Annual General Meeting voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the B.C. Liberal government's upcoming treaty referendum.

"I'm proud of and impressed by the delegates who have overwhelmingly rejected Mr. Campbell's unjust and divisive approach to Aboriginal people," said BCTF President David Chudnovsky.

Teachers agreed to support the position taken by Aboriginal communities in resisting what they see as the government's misguided referendum. They will also write to their MLAs and MPs objecting to the process as an injustice to Aboriginal people and urging them to put a stop to the referendum. They will work through the Canadian Teachers' Federation, the labour movement, and community groups to voice their objections and express their solidarity with First Nations.

In addition, they will launch an appeal to the United Nations about the injustice of the referendum process, which seeks to legitimize a process that incites racism and will deepen divisions within British Columbia society upon racial grounds.

Vancouver teacher Christine Stewart, of the Nisga'a Nation, said that the vote "was very emotional for those of us who are at the forefront of the long struggle for equity and justice within B.C. society."

"It was important for us that our colleagues have seen through the smokescreen of Campbell's rhetoric about this referendum being an exercise in democracy," she said. "They understand that to subject the rights of a minority to majority rule is fundamentally anti-democratic, and an example of the ongoing colonialism we continue to face."

The BCTF, the First Nations Education Steering Committee, the First Nations Schools Association, and other members of the B.C. Education Partners' Group have jointly published a teachers' guide and a parent's guide to the proposed referendum on the treaty negotiation process. For information about the guides, please contact the First Nations Education Steering Committee at 1-877-422-3672.

For more detailed background and legal information, see the B.C. Referendum Action Network web site: www.treatyinjustice.org

-- 30 --

For more information please call Nancy Knickerbocker,
BCTF media relations officer,
604-250-6775 (cell).

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"Ballot Burning is an Option"
by Neskonlith Chief Arthur Manuel
March 29, 2002

"The treaty process is effectively over in B.C"
by Jody Paterson
Columnist, Victoria Times Colonist
March 28, 2002
(Posted here with the writer's permission)

"The Denigration of ‘A Great National Question:’
The Campbell Referendum on
the Indian Title in British Columbia"

by Anthony J. Hall
Department of Native American Studies
University of Lethbridge
March 19, 2002

"As the provincial government goes forward
with its referendum, it is important to remember why
British Columbia chose the path of negotiation
in the first place"

Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault
March 15, 2002

"BC Treaty Referendum Questions
Constitutionally Beyond Province's Power"

by Louise Mandell
Legal Analysis for
the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
March 7, 2002



Treaty Injustice
BC Referendum Action Network

Click HERE
for Photos from the February 23,2002
Victoria, BC Rally
(Photos courtesy of Te'mexw Treaty Association)

Click HERE to read the anti-referendum pamphlet
by the Native Student Union, University of Victoria
NOTE: The file is a .pdf file requiring
Adobe Acrobat Reader software



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