The Cowichan Tribes hope to conduct another vote of its members on the land code within four months, according to Chief William Seymour.
But Seymour said it’s possible the vote may have to wait until the new year, as the Cowichan Tribes will be holding its own council elections in December.
A recent attempt by the Cowichan Tribes to shift management responsibilities of band land away from Ottawa to the tribe proved unsuccessful because not enough Cowichan Tribes’ band members turned out to vote on the issue.
The First Nation needed 737 yes votes to pass the new land code, but only 727 eligible members registered for the vote.
Of those, 546 voted in favour of the land code, 159 voted against it, and there were 10 rejected ballots.
Seymour said he feels it’s “extremely important” that the Cowichan Tribes, which has approximately 375,000 hectares of traditional territory, “get away” from the Indian Act and its rules that place the management of its lands in Ottawa’s hands.
“We can’t do anything with our land without getting permission from Ottawa first,” Seymour said.
“We’d be able to utilize our lands better if we could lease some of it to businesses. We’ve had businesses show interest over the years, but it can take between five to 10 years to get approvals from the government. That’s too long for many of them, which results in the loss of potential new revenue for the Cowichan Tribes.”
Seymour said the Cowichan Tribes spent two years preparing for the vote on the land code, which included going door to door in the community to explain what it means, and holding information sessions.
Seymour said he blames the failure of not getting enough of the band out to vote on there being too many other issues being discussed and dealt with in the community at the same time.
“I think people were getting confused,” he said.
“We’ll regroup now and see what we can do to prepare better for another vote. This time, we’re hoping people will focus more on the issue of the land code.”