The Columbia River Treaty (Treaty) is an international water management agreement between Canada and the United States to manage cross-boundary river flows for flood control and hydroelectricity generation. The Treaty has no end date; however, either Canada or the US can unilaterally terminate most Treaty provisions as early as September 16, 2024, provided at least 10 years notice of their intention to terminate is given.
In 2011, the Province initiated a Columbia River Treaty Review process to evaluate future decision options, including possible continuation, amendment or termination of the Treaty. The Ministry of Energy and Mines, coordinating agency for the review, established a Columbia River Treaty Review Team to undertake analysis and provide recommendations to Cabinet in 2013.
The Treaty Review Team completed extensive public and First Nations consultation from 2012 – 2013, to ensure the interests and concerns of Columbia Basin aboriginal peoples and residents informed the Province’s decision on the Treaty. Basin residents were able to provide feedback throughout the consultation process, including on major documents such as the Draft Recommendation to Cabinet, Guiding Principles for potential future Treaty negotiations, and the Public Consultation Report. They were able to share their feedback in person at community events, and through email, blog posts, Facebook and Twitter.
Throughout the Columbia River Treaty Review, the provincial and federal governments collaborated in comprehensive consultations with each First Nation that asserted rights and title in the Columbia Basin. This government-to-government engagement ensured that First Nations had the opportunity to learn about all aspects of the Treaty, provide information and perspectives on how the future of the Treaty could impact their aboriginal rights and interests, and give input and advice on whether the Treaty should be terminated, continues or changed.
The B.C. government’s decision to continue the Treaty and seek improvements within the existing framework was announced in March 2014.
- Columbia River Treaty Review Team formed in November 2011
- Public Consultation Phase 1 “Collecting Views” was carried out in May and June 2012
- Public Consultation Phase 2 “Reviewing the Analysis” ran from October to November 2012
- Public Consultation Phase 3 “Options and Interests” was completed in March 2013
- Draft BC Recommendation announced in October 2013
- Public Consultation Phase 4 “Closing the Loop” occurred in November 2013
- B.C.’s decision was announced March 2014
- B.C. and federal governments consulted each First Nation on an ongoing basis throughout the 2 year review period
- The Review Team completed 4 rounds of public consultation delivering 23 community events, over 1,000 people attended either in person or via LiveStream;
- Workshops were held in in 15 communities throughout 2012 and 2013;
- Over 195 people attended technical conferences;
- 2 meetings were held with regional district and municipal elected officials;
- A cross-Basin advisory group of knowledgeable residents was established;
- The Treaty Review Team attended regional youth and college events, and developed and delivered a classroom project that reached 600 students;
- Input from nearly 100 Basin residents’ collected during the public consultations was reviewed
- The Review Team designated four spots for youth/young adults on the Sounding Board and will include similar representation in any future review related committees;
- The Treaty Review Team hosted a booth at the March 2013 East Kootenay Regional Science Fair at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook where they spoke with close to 100 young people and approximately 100 teachers and parents; and
- The Review Team developed a separate consultation and engagement report for each First Nation that summarized the consultation process, aboriginal interests expressed during the engagement, and First Nation governments’ views and perspective related to the Treaty.
Input leads to action:
Basin residents generally agreed that they had been heard, and that the Public Consultation Report captured and reflected their issues, concerns and interests: that the Treaty should continue and improvements to the Treaty should be negotiated with the U.S.
Inherent in the negotiation process is continued and effective engagement with First Nations, residents and local governments. In response to public interest in ongoing engagement on potential future improvements to the Treaty and ongoing hydroelectric operations, the Columbia Basin Regional Advisory Committee was formed in August 2014. The Committee is a diverse Basin-wide group representing a broad range of perspectives, interests and geography, and includes Basin residents, First Nations, representatives of Basin local governments, Columbia Basin Trust, BC Hydro, Fortis BC, Columbia Power Corporation, the Province and the Canadian Federal government.
One of the suggestions made during the public consultation was to explore a more stable operation on Arrow Lake, one of the Treaty reservoirs. The Province and BC Hydro have since engaged with consultants to research this option, and a draft report is available for review and public input here.
A further commitment was made to continue to consult with First Nations on a government-to-government basis throughout any negotiation process, and this engagement is ongoing.