Today is the last day for members of Cowichan Tribes to vote on whether they want to adopt a proposed new land code.
Cowichan Tribes already held a vote to implement the land code in 2017, but it was unsuccessful because not enough band members turned out to vote.
Organizers of the vote on the land code, which started on Sept. 18, are hoping for more success this time because the voting threshold has been changed.
This time, the majority vote of those who cast ballots is required for the land code to be adopted, as opposed to the majority of Cowichan Band members who are eligible to vote like it was in 2017.
In an interview last April when this week’s vote was announced, Chief William Seymour said Cowichan Tribes currently needs permission from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to do any development on its lands, from building homes to leasing property.
“If an opportunity for leasing prime land for business or other purposes arises, it can take up to five years for the department’s approval and many of the interested people walk away, and our community members lose out,” he said.
“If we implement the land code, we would not need permission anymore from the department to do anything with our land.”
Under the land code, first established under a framework agreement between First Nations and Ottawa 23 years ago, it’s recognized that First Nations have an inherent right to manage their reserve lands and resources under their own land codes, free from constraints imposed by the province and federal officials under the Indian Act.
More than 80 First Nations in Canada have now ratified their land codes, and Cowichan Tribes aims to be the 13th and largest First Nation on Vancouver Island to do so.
Voting will continue until 8 p.m. tonight at 200 Cowichan Way.