Chilko Lake operators appeal to governments for help

Tourism operators in the Chilcotin say the Tsilhqot’in rights and title win has had an economically devastating effect.

Tourism operators in the Chilcotin say the Tsilhqot’in rights and title win has had a disheartening and economically devastating effect on their businesses.

In letters written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Christy Clark early this month, the Chilko Operators Association (COA) representing five tourism operators is pleading for a resolution with the federal, provincial and Tsilhqot’in National governments.

“We are not trying to incite racism,” association member Brian McCutcheon of ROAM Adventures Inc.

Bear Camp told the Tribune Tuesday. “It it not a native versus non-native issue. It’s about the fact there are no provisions on how to address private commercial operators who are trapped inside title lands.”

By writing the letters and contacting the media, McCutcheon said the association is trying to draw the Tsilhqot’in, federal and provincial governments out of hibernation.

“The only communication we had has been controversial and contradictory to our meetings,” he said, noting during meetings in October  2015, and May and October 2016, tourism operators were told it would be status quo.  Then in December 2016, some of the operators received letters from the Tsilhqot’in National Government telling them to stop advertising and stop operations in the title area.

“It is very confusing because the province tells us they don’t know what is going on and the federal government does not answer us,” McCutcheon said.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William told the Tribune Tuesday that during the transition period local operators were informed that they can continue with any licensed or permitted activities.

“Some operators have been operating without a permit or a license, even before the title win,” William said, noting letters were sent to all tourism operators this winter with the intent to try and resolve the issues and invite all operators to “come to the table and get approval.”

McCutcheon, however, said he does have a permit to raft and kayak on Chilko River and Chilko Lake with his guests, but has been told by William he doesn’t have a license to view bears.

“My understanding is our guests are allowed to go on Tsilhqot’in lands just as the public are, but Chief Roger seems to want to continually differentiate our guests from the regular public,” McCutcheon said.

“What’s the difference between a person staying at a motel in Williams Lake and coming out and hiking around or someone staying at our camp and hiking around? He can’t clarify that.”

McCutcheon also said Xeni Gwet’in wardens have evicted photographers from private property, erected road signs telling people to stop their vehicles in the title area and that the Chilko River was closed.

“I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, but I am asking these questions. Do they have the right to close access roads to private property, to Chilko Lake and Chilko River?”

William said he knows many operators are frustrated.

“There is a group called the Chilko and Community Resorts Association that we have been working with since we signed an agreement in early 2000,” William said. “That group has been meeting with us to do tourism planning.”

William said in the past few years, Xeni Gwet’in did not have the resources to work with the operators, and the Tsilhqot’in title transition team has only been in place for about a year and a half, and a manager was hired just before Christmas.

McCutcheon said five of the six major operators formed the COA in hopes they could get better answers to their questions.

“We are just asking for clarity from the governments to get to the table together. Unfortunately there can never be a balance or harmony in the Chilcotin as such because we have five commercial businesses that we represent surrounded by 440,000 hectares of private land,” he said.

Part of the cease and desist order states the Tsilhqot’in are entitled to financial benefit for access to title lands, but what that exactly means is unclear, said McCutcheon.

Williams Lake and District Chamber of Commerce president Charlene Harrison said the chamber would like to see the issue resolved.

“We as the chamber were under the understanding that businesses in the title area would be recognized and given consideration,” Harrison said.

“We are just as disappointed as the people that are being effected that this type of situation is being created when we are all trying to build better relationships.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

A warrant was issued for Darwyn Sellars, 31, on Nov. 4, 2019, according to Black Press. (CrimeStoppers)
B.C. man’s rack of charges include Abbotsford and Williams Lake offences

Sentencing delayed against Darwyn Sellars, who pleaded guilty to lengthy list of charges

A CVIS grant would be an opportunity to support the purchase and installation of high definition cameras and audio systems over the ice surfaces in Williams Lake, 100 Mile House and Quesnel. (Patrick Davies photo / Black Press Media)
CRD to apply for grant to install high-def cameras, audio at ice arenas for streaming

The cost of the project is estimated at $250,000 for installation at all three recreation facilities

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in South Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Jason Noble and his longtime partner Marilyn Martin (Photo submitted)
ROTARY MONTH: Camaraderie, helping others fuels Rotary Club of Williams Lake Daybreak

For the past year-and-a-half Martin has served as the club’s secretary; Noble as president

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay woman flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gin, one of the Kantymirs’ two sheep. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Sheep start up ATV, sit in cars and go for walks in Salmon Arm

Until they bought two sheep, Ken and Karleen Kantymir didin’t realize just how social the animals are

Heather Lucier, a pastor at Kelowna Harvest Fellowship, speaks to an RCMP officer outside of Harvest Ministries on Sunday, Jan. 10. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna church fined 2nd time for violating public health order

Harvest Ministries in Kelowna has previously said they will fight the tickets in court

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons was appointed to the NDP cabinet as minister of social development and poverty reduction after the October 2020 B.C. election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. job training fund increased for developmentally disabled

COVID-19 has affected 1,100 ‘precariously employed’ people

B.C. driver’s licence and identity cards incorporate medical services, but the passport option for land crossings is being phased out. (B.C. government)
B.C. abandons border ID cards built into driver’s licence

$35 option costing ICBC millions as demand dwindles

2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

Most Read