Province unveils Crown land offered to Ktunaxa

As the Ktunaxa treaty reaches an Agreement In Principle, the three parties revealed the current negotiations in a Cranbrook public meeting

If the Treaty is signed

About 1,700 hectares of Crown land to the north, west and south of Cranbrook could become Ktunaxa Land if the Treaty is finalized.

The land offer was shown to the public at an information meeting in Cranbrook on Thursday, October 25. Around 50 people visited The Heritage Inn for the session, facilitated by Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski with presentations by Ktunaxa, B.C. and Canada negotiators for the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Treaty.

In total, 33,458 hectares of Crown land has been offered to the Ktunaxa during negotiations, which are close to resulting in an Agreement In Principle between the three parties, 20 years after the treaty process began.

“The next key milestone will be reaching an Agreement In Principle,” explained Sena Paradis, senior negotiator for Cranbrook. “That agreement itself, while not a legally binding document, does provide a foundation for the final agreement, for the treaty itself.”

Paradis added that it has been a long time between public information sessions because the three parties wanted to make sure they had information to share.

“In the beginning, we would come and talk about the treaty process, and people would be like, well, you’ve come too soon, tell us when there is something to sink our teeth into, but don’t wait too long because we don’t want it to be a done deal. So we are trying to hit the mark by coming out when we don’t have all the answers and it’s not 100 per cent firmed up, but to share with you what is an important milestone in terms of the land process.”

Provincial negotiator Marty Osberg said the land offer was drafted to ensure the Ktunaxa Nation can successfully self-govern.

“The package has to contain within it the capacity to generate the revenue that will be necessary to sustain self government,” he said.

Osberg went through maps of the Crown land that was offered to the Ktunaxa, and conditionally accepted in February 2012.

However, the treaty parties agreed the maps would only be shown to the public at the information meetings. Government representatives were not able to answer questions from media after the meeting.

The Townsman was present for the map presentation, and can provide a rough description of where the Ktunaxa Lands would be. However, because the maps are not publicly available, the Townsman could not obtain a copy for publication.

Around Cranbrook, the land offer includes land to the north, south and west of the city.

“Initially there was a strong interest in owning lands to the east of Cranbrook, but there was a big issue there with respects to the community forest. We didn’t want to get into a big argument with community members about the transfer of ownership of the community forest. We know what values the local community places on that as a recreational feature,” explained Marty Osberg. “So we backed away from that and we concentrated our focus on Crown lands on the outskirts of Cranbrook that have reasonable topography and in the longer term present opportunities for the Ktunaxa to participate in any sort of growth that happens around the community. These are lands that will have value in the future for residential development, for institutional development.”

There are five parcels surrounding Cranbrook in the land offer, totalling 1,700 hectares.

What is known locally as the “south hill” is part of the offer, south of Southview and including Hidden Valley Road and Moyie Lake Road.

All road rights-of-way will remain provincial property.

There is a parcel next to Jimsmith Lake, and another around New Lake.

A large parcel is west of Wycliffe Park Road before the McPhee Bridge.

Also, the St. Mary’s Band’s current land will be expanded south in the area north of Standard Hill Road.

In the South Country, a total of about 1,200 hectares near Koocanusa would become Ktunaxa Lands.

North of Kikomun Bridge, there are two parcels on either side of the reservoir. On the eastern shore, a 136 hectare piece on Desrosiers Road, and directly opposite a 420 hectare piece on the western shore from the bridge, all the way north to the gas line crossing.

There is about 400 hectares between the Tobacco Plains Band land and Koocanusa along the U.S. border, and at Big Springs, and there is a small piece at Elk River Springs. Another 228 hectares is on the eastern shore of Koocanusa south of where the Elk River comes in.

In the Elk Valley, there are significant wilderness parcels, and the total land offer in that area is about 5,500 hectares. Most significant is 3,000 hectares in the Flathead range in B.C.’s eastern-most corner, including a non-operational border crossing. The land offer includes 1,000 hectares on the Wigwam River, 1,300 hectares around Snowshoe Lake, and 65 hectares near Weary Creek. Closest to Fernie is a 350 hectare piece to the west, between Mt. Fernie Provincial Park and the power lines to the north.

In the Columbia Valley, the land offer includes a 2,500 hectare piece to the east of the Akisqnuk Band lands, which includes the Madeas Tatley range and Mount Swansea. There is a 490 hectare piece around Lake Enid, not including the recreation site. In Radium, a parcel has been offered just north of Sinclair Canyon, butting up against Kootenay National Park. Off Settlers Rd, two small parcels have been offered to the Ktunaxa Nation where it already has campsites for its guide outfitting business. Heading south, there is a 250 hectare parcel on the bench above Dutch Creek. Beside Columbia Lake, there are two parcels of Crown land in the offer totalling 45 hectares. One of those sites is critical ungulate habitat, which the Ktunaxa recognizes and wishes to protect. Finally, the offer includes 105 hectares near Whitetail Lake.

To be clear: only land that presently belongs to the B.C. government has been offered to the Ktunaxa. The treaty would also transfer ownership of what is currently known as Indian lands to the Ktunaxa Nation. Those lands are presently owned by the federal government.

The provincial government has also offered to create a cultural designation for two significant places in Ktunaxa traditional territory that are too large to be in the land offer.

“These lands will remain provincial lands,” said Osberg, but the province and Ktunaxa will enter into a management agreement that protects the land’s wildlife, ecosystem and archeological resource values, he explained.

Those two places are the entire eastern shore of COlumbia Lake – much of which is already proected in a wildlife management area – and the Steeples mountain range outside Cranbrook. The Steeples area includes Maus Creek and Fisher Peak – the entire range above 2,000 metres in elevation.

“We would enter into a collaborative management relationship with the Ktunaxa Nation to manage these areas,” said Osberg.

Ktunaxa negotiator Garry Merkel explained that the Ktunaxa Lands will be categorized either as private, when they are being used for a purpose that is not compatible with recreational access, or public.

“Much of our lands will be public lands. The public will continue to have access to those lands,” said Merkel. “It’s highly unlikely that the wilderness areas will be private lands.”

It’s important to understand that the treaty is much broader than the land deal, Merkel said.

“This treaty is much more than a real estate deal,” he said. “This is about creating a new level of government.”

The treaty also provides certainty on governance, natural resources, fiscal arrangements and many more details.

Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese reassured the public that the treaty is about circumstances for the Ktunaxa.

“We want to change our circumstances; we want to change what it is that we have to deal with. We’re not looking at intruding on anyone else’s lives but hopefully the things we do will result in making things better for all for us. In our view, if things are working well for the Ktunaxa people as the original people of this place, it will be looking good for all of us,” she said.

The three parties in treaty negotiations – which also has representation from local government in Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski – are “very, very close” to reaching an Agreement In Principle, said Sena Paradis.

“Treaty making is a piece of unfinished business for B.C. and Canada. It’s a piece that ended up on the too-hard pile for a long time. It’s hard, it’s complex, it’s challenging on so many levels, particularly when cultures have fundamentally different world views. But it’s a challenge we shouldn’t leave for another generation. It’s important that we commit to see this work through,” she said.

Once the Agreement In Principle is signed, the three parties begin work towards a final agreement. Provincial negotiator Mark Lofthouse said that process usually takes two-three years. Once the final agreement is signed, the governments begin the implementation process – legislating the treaty – which usually takes around two years.

For more information about the treaty negotiations, you can contact:

Diane Gielis, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, 1-800-665-9320;

Bill Armstrong, B.C. Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, 1-800-880-1022;

Garry Slonowski, Ktunaxa Kinbasket Treaty Council, 250-919-2848.