Federal government announces Columbia River Basin Indigenous Nations to participate as observers in Columbia River Treaty negotiations

News release

April 26, 2019 - Castlegar, British Columbia Global Affairs Canada

Together, Canada and Indigenous Peoples are continuing to build a new relationship based on the recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership.

Canada and the United States are in the process of negotiating to modernize the Columbia River Treaty. The Government of Canada is working closely with the Province of British Columbia and the Ktunaxa, Okanagan, and Secwepemc Nations to shape Canada’s approach to these negotiations.

The three Indigenous Nations have provided input into negotiation positions on an ongoing basis. Taking a step to further integrate Indigenous Nations into the process, the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, is pleased to announce that representatives of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan, and Secwepemc Nations will now participate as official observers in the negotiations.  

On April 24, the Minister met with the leadership of Columbia River Basin Indigenous Nations and the Honourable Katrine Conroy, British Columbia’s Minister responsible for the Columbia River Treaty, in Castlegar, British Columbia, to discuss further collaboration between all parties.


“I am delighted that, for the first time, Indigenous Nations will officially join our negotiations with the United States about the future of the Columbia River Treaty. I want to thank the Indigenous Nations for their valuable participation and for their patience throughout this process. By working together, we will ensure that negotiations directly reflect the priorities of the Ktunaxa, Okanagan, and Secwepemc Nations – the people whose livelihoods depend on the Columbia River and who have resided on its banks for generations. This is an historic day and demonstrates our government’s commitment to work in full partnership with Indigenous Nations.”

- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

“As a representative of the Secwepemc Nation, I am pleased that the federal government has taken steps to recognize the rights of our people in the negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty through the inclusion of Indigenous Nations Observers within the negotiations. This moves us further down the path of reconciliation.”

- Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, Tribal Chief, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council

“The original Columbia River Treaty in 1964 excluded our Nations, and wreaked decades of havoc on our communities and the basin. Canada’s unprecedented decision to include us directly in the US -Canada CRT negotiations is courageous but overdue and necessary to overcome the decades of denial and disregard. We welcome the government’s bold decision here and look forward to helping to ensure any new Treaty addresses the mistakes of the past.”

- Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chair, Okanagan Nation Alliance

“Minister Freeland’s decision to accept the Indigenous Nations’ proposal for observer level participation in the negotiations with the US is very significant.  We are taking small but meaningful steps together on the road to reconciliation.  In addition to the partnership with Canada and BC, the partnership we are building between the Ktunaxa, Syilx and Secwepemc Nations, as the holders of aboriginal title to the entirety of the Columbia Basin, is deeply meaningful.”

- Kathryn Teneese, Chair, Ktunaxa Nation Council

“Our government applauds Canada’s inclusion of Indigenous Nations in the Canada-U.S. Columbia River Treaty negotiations. Indigenous Nations have already been collaborating with the governments of B.C. and Canada on negotiation positions and strategies, and now the relationship has been strengthened. This is an important and unprecedented next step in demonstrating our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to our journey towards reconciliation.”

-Hon. Katrine Conroy, BC Minister Responsible for the Columbia River Treaty

Quick facts

  • In 1964, Canada and the United States implemented the Columbia River Treaty to develop the hydroelectric potential of the Columbia River Basin and to control against flooding. For more than 50 years, the Treaty has been a model of efficient work and cooperation benefiting both Canada and the United States.

  • The Treaty is a transboundary flood control and hydropower agreement. The two countries are in the process of negotiating to modernize the Treaty. The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, June 19-20.

Associated links


Adam Austen
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

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