Columbia River Treaty negotiations were held in Cranbrook this week as negotiators from Canada and the United States further discussed the important matter affecting the entire Columbia Basin.
The negotiatiors met in ʔaq’am while members of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan and Secwepemc Nations were also present for the negotiations, joining as official observers in the most recent talks.
“We had representatives from the three Nations that made presentations on the ecosystem function and salmon reintroduction,” said Katrine Conroy, B.C. Minister for the Columbia River Treaty. “Salmon reintroduction is a major issue for not only people on this side of the border but as well as the U.S. delegation.”
“This is the eighth round of talks that has been held and in this latest round of talks, the U.S. and Canadian delegations discussed issues that are related to floodplain management and hydro power, as well as ecosystem cooperation.”
The Columbia River Treaty was first ratified in 1964 between Canada and the United States, becoming a transboundary water management agreement. Mainly focused on flood management, the United States prepared Canada $64 million for 60 years to provide assured flood control. As well, the U.S. committed to paying Canada half of the incremental power potential produced through the new Treaty.
“Flood control and power generation is critically important and that’s all that was actually discussed when the Treaty was signed back in the 60s but now we need to look at the ecosystem, we need to look at salmon reintroduction, we need to look at what’s happening here in the Basin, those very extensive issues that weren’t part of the original discussion.”
However, there was virtually no consultation with the public and with First Nations, leading to the displacement of more than 2,000 residents as a result of Treaty dams and reservoirs took up about 110,000 hectares of Canadian land. That remains another focus for Conroy and the negotiators in the current Columbia River Treaty negotiations.
“What we’re looking for is to ensure that the voices of the Basin people are heard this time,” Conroy told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “When the original Treaty was negotiated and signed, no voices from the Basin were heard, no Basin residents’ voices were heard, no Indigenous Nations.”
The current Columbia River Treaty has no end date, but can be terminated in September 2024, given that at least 10 years notice is given by either country, which is now under review and renegotiation by Canada and the United States.
Ideally, Conroy said they want the Treaty to be a win-win for everyone involved.
“When everybody wins it works best for the people of the basin on both the U.S. and the Canadian side and we want to keep that in mind,” added Conroy. “We also have to think this is the generational Treaty that is being discussed, this is something that’s going to affect our kids and grandkids and their kids for years to come.”
With the federal election also looming on October 21st and Chrystia Freeland as the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs that has been working on the Columbia River Treaty with Conroy and the professional negotiations, Conroy hopes the election doesn’t affect their current state of talks with the United States.
“We’re hoping not,” said Conroy. “These discussions need to carry on and regardless of who is the government after the next election, it’s our hope that they will continue to carry on as they should.”
Across the Columbia Basin, 12 community meetings will be held with the public in October and November to update them on the current stage of negotiations and the impacts to their specific communities. In 2018, the B.C. Government held 10 similar community meetings.
Following the most recent negotiations in Cranbrook, the ninth round of talks will be held in November back in Washington, D.C.
More: Columbia River Treaty (B.C. Government)