Edition: February 2019
2018 Community Meetings: Listening to Local Voices
Feb 7, 2019
In the 54 years since the Columbia River Treaty was ratified, society has evolved a great deal. This is reflected in how government approaches matters related to the Treaty. At the core of this change is government’s understanding of the need to listen to, and consult with, the people in the Columbia Basin.
That was the impetus behind a series of 10 community meetings held throughout the B.C. Columbia Basin in 2018. The meetings were designed to keep local residents up-to-date on Treaty negotiations, as well as to seek residents’ input on issues they felt should be a priority during current discussions on modernizing the Treaty.
These meetings were a continuation of the extensive public consultation conducted in 2012 – 2013 as part of the Province’s Columbia River Treaty Review. That phase of consultation was designed to better understand Basin residents’ interests with regards to the Treaty. Public input received during the review is reflected in the B.C. Decision and Guiding Principles (2014), which has since informed Canada and B.C.’s negotiating mandates.
The Province hosted the 2018 meetings in Meadow Creek, Jaffray, Creston, Castlegar, Nelson, Valemount, Revelstoke, Golden, Nakusp, and Invermere. Local government representatives shared opening remarks at each meeting, with their perspective on the importance of the Treaty and how they had been engaged in the pre-negotiation period.
The meetings continued with an update on negotiations, provided by Kathy Eichenberger, the lead B.C. representative on the Canadian negotiating team. Stephen Gluck, a member of the Canadian negotiation team from Global Affairs Canada, attended the Revelstoke, Golden and Nakusp meetings to provide a federal update and to hear Basin citizens’ input first hand.
Meeting participants were then asked what issues they feel negotiators should prioritize as they seek to modernize the Treaty. Many of the topics they raised echoed those captured during the 2012 - 2013 public consultation, confirming that the same issues matter to Basin residents today. Attendees also added new interests to the list, and provided concrete recommendations for how to address some of their ongoing concerns. The various issues discussed included: Treaty impacts to Columbia Basin ecosystems, agriculture and tourism; increased support for communities most affected by the Treaty; Indigenous Nations’ involvement in the Treaty negotiation process; the need for greater youth engagement on the Treaty; and equitable sharing of benefits between Canada and the U.S.
A report summarizing these meetings is available on the Province of B.C.’s Columbia River Treaty website: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/columbiarivertreaty/2018-community-meetings/