Candidate Questions – Do you support the reversal of the 1956 decision to declare the Sinixt People legally extinct within Canadian borders?

Each week of the campaign, we will ask our local candidates to respond to readers’ questions

Do you support reversing the 1956 decision that declared the Sinixt People legally extinct within Canadian borders? If so, what specific steps would you take to reverse that decision? If not, why not?

– From a reader in Grand Forks

Richard Cannings – NDP

I fully support reversing the declaration that the Sinixt people are extinct. They are very much alive – some live on their traditional territories in the West Kootenay, others were forced to move across the border to the Colville Reserve and others married into families in the Okanagan.

I have spoken to, and presented numerous petitions to, the Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Crown Relations, asking her to review this situation, and would continue that pressure and advocacy in the next parliament. I have also talked to the mayor of Midway about the possibility of using the well-known “entwined trees” site in Midway as an ideal location to present signage telling the Sinixt story, a story that all of us should know.

Connie Denesiuk – Liberal

The Sinixt People are not extinct, as the recent BC Court of Appeal decision on the Desautel case verifies.

I have acknowledged the Sinixt people when recognizing traditional territory in meetings. I support reversing the 1956 decision which declared the Sinixt extinct.

The Sinixt continue to live as a tribal society on both sides of the Canada/US border; however, they have been denied a voice in the protection of natural resources and hunting rights on their historic lands. Steps toward any future case to reverse the 1956 court decision must be undertaken by those who have expertise in the emerging body of aboriginal law. Complex social, economic, and cross-border rights factors will need to be fully investigated prior to launching that case or arriving at financial reconciliation.

Tara Howse – Green

I cannot imagine how it would feel to be informed that I am extinct, despite being physically present. I would continue to support and push for the Sinixt’s petition that they be recognized, assuming that is the direction that is still desired. With the 2017 Desautel case affirming the rights of the Sinixt people in the U.S. to hunt, that the Canadian government has not reversed the status is alarming. Of course, prior to re-introducing legislation, the first step would be to sit down, listen, and learn their story.

Article 3 of UNDRIP explicitly states that Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. I support the full implementation of legislation to embrace all 46 articles. Specifically related to the Sinixt claim, I (and the Green Party) would support the Truth and Reconciliation’s Call to Action #47, rejecting the concept of terra nullius that justified European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, which allowed for the ruling to occur in the first place.

Helena Konanz – Conservative

The BC Court of Appeal recently upheld a lower court finding that a Sinixt man from Washington State has Aboriginal rights in Canada – specifically, hunting rights within the traditional territory of the Sinixt. The BC Government has appealed this case to the Supreme Court of Canada, and that court will decide if they will hear the case. The outcome of this case will be key to how the federal government could or should respond, so it is premature to draw a conclusion on this question.

Sean Taylor – People’s Party of Canada

The PPC is based on four principles of personal responsibility, individual freedom, fairness, and respect. Out of respect for those Sinixt people currently living in Canada, I do support reversing the 1956 decision that declared the Sinixt People legally extinct within Canadian borders. If elected the MP for South Okanagan-West Kootenay, as our party is non whipped, I would be able to bring forth this issue.

In general, the PPC wants to build a new relationship with all aboriginal people. Through consultation the PPC would look to replace the Indian Act with a new legal framework guaranteeing equal rights & responsibilities to aboriginal people as Canadians and promote self reliance for their communities. A PPC government would respect the Constitution and treaties and work toward a balance of mutual respect between the needs of the Sinixt people and the Canadian population in general.

Carolina Hopkins – Independent

Carolina Hopkins did not respond to this question by deadline. When the candidate does respond, their answer will be added to the online version of this story, readable at grandforksgazette.ca.

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