Recent media coverage of the Okanagan Indian Band’s efforts to clear their lands of unexploded ordinances has raised the profile of an issue that dates back to before the World Wars, but also resulted in what the band is calling misleading statements from the Department of National Defense (DND)
Recently McLeans magazine published a feature article on the issue of unexploded ordinances left by DND on OKIB (and many other First Nations reserves) when those areas were used for military training exercises before World War I and II.
But the band says a DND statement following the article is misleading.
OKIB says a statement to a Kelowna TV station included a statement from the DND that misleads the public about DND’s contractual obligations to clean training areas once they are no longer being used for those purposes.
Specifically, the band says DND released the following statement to Global News: “To support the Okanagan Indian Band’s future development plans, DND will continue to assess and initiate clearances once the Band has finalized its economic development implementation plan and timelines.”
OKIB Chief Byron Louis has issued the following statement on behalf of the Okanagan Indian Band:
“There is no such requirement, under the terms of the permits, for the Okanagan Indian Band to submit an economic development implementation plan or timelines prior to DND clearing the lands of UXO. In the original agreement which allowed the DND to use the OKIB lands for training purposes the contract clearly states that, ‘The Permittee [DND] undertakes to repair all damage done to the land and to fill all holes for the protection of stock and riders.’ Further, ‘[DND] agrees to remove, or dispose of all duds from the permit area at the termination of any firing practice…’ Subsequent numerous agreements, all signed by the DND state their obligation to remove UXO from OKIB lands.”
Despite the agreements, two different training areas located on OKIB lands have never been cleaned of unexploded ordinances.
The OKIB says the failure to clear OKIB’s reserve lands of UXO continues to impact the band’s potential uses for those lands adding that recently, the Aquilini Development and Construction Inc. settled out of court with the DND over UXO on their property which is near OKIB lands and the Aquilini Group is currently clearing UXO from their lands and have applied to the City of Vernon to subdivide for development.