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Local MLA hopes to be invloved in IJC talks

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka hopes to be involved in discussions regarding Elk/Kootenay watershed pollution when the International Joint Commission gets underway.

Shypitka has not been involved in the process so far.

“I’ve had zero involvement, which is a little concerning. You’d think a reach-out to the MLA of the region that’s being addressed would be considered,” said Shypitka.

“There’s a lot of political ramifications in B.C., Canada and the United States, because, of course, this watershed reaches down through the river system and into the US.”

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Despite being in the BC United Party, the official opposition in the legislature, Shypitka hopes to get a seat in discussions.

“I would 100 per cent be in favour of being at the table in some capacity, whether it’s as a fly on the wall or actually putting forward my observations on what’s happening here in Kootenay East,” said Shypitka.

“I have a lot of skin in the game, as far as being a long-time resident here – part of five generations – and I want to continue seeing this area flourish.”

Shypitka said he’s glad the push for the IJC referral came from the Ktunaxa Nation and local advocacy.

“We have this referral coming locally, which I encourage. It’s good to have people on the ground,” said Shypitka.

“I only hope this remains non-partisan, because that’s the mandate of the IJC.”

Federal government officials said the joint reference will request the IJC create a formal governance structure between federal and Indigenous governments, British Columbia, Idaho and Montana by June 30, 2024.

The Canadian Government said actions from this committee will respond to several concerns:

  • Gaining a common understanding of pollutants in the Elk-Kootenay watershed.
  • Establishing mechanisms for transboundary data, information, and Indigenous knowledge sharing, science and monitoring, assessments of aquatic ecosystem health, and transparent progress reporting.
  • Understanding and taking steps to reduce and mitigate the impacts of pollution.

Shypitka hopes discussions and future siggestions will follow the evidence.

“If we’re doing the right things and science dictates that, then let’s move forward. Let’s not put up political barriers to push one agenda or the other,” said Shypitka.

“I want to make sure it’s based on science.”

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