On Monday, March 1, 2020, Parks Canada hosted its second targeted meeting with specific Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board members to provide an update on the proposed national park reserve in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.
The meeting addressed progress in the negotiation of an establishment agreement and a number of questions raised by local residents.
The meeting was attended by Karla Kozakevich (Board Chair), George Bush and Rick Knodel, Directors of Areas E, B and C in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen; as well as staff from the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, Parks Canada and BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Parks Canada continues to meet on a regular basis with the Government of BC and the syilx/Okanagan Nation, as represented by the Osoyoos Indian Band and the Lower Similkameen Indian Band, to advance negotiations on the proposed national park reserve, using virtual technology. However, delays in the establishment process have occurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the inability of the parties to meet face to face in negotiations.
In its meeting with board members, Parks Canada and BC Parks reiterated that public lands within the working boundary of the proposed national park reserve remain under the jurisdiction of the Province of BC and that Parks Canada holds no authority over these lands.
A number of questions regarding operational issues were discussed. While Parks Canada does have operational experience at other sites, and will share examples at future meetings, the unique issues specific to the South Okanagan-Similkameen will be explored in detail through an extensive park management planning process held with local government and the public, after the proposed national park reserve is established.
In response to concern from local residents over rumours of expropriation of land, Parks Canada confirmed once again that there will be no expropriation of private lands; any acquisition of private property will occur on a willing seller-willing buyer basis. Once the proposed national park reserve is established, Crown land, including provincial protected areas within the boundary would be transferred to the Government of Canada. Expropriation as a means to establish or enlarge national parks and national park reserves is prohibited by Parliament under the Canada National Parks Act.
Parks Canada and the Government of British Columbia are committed to working with local stakeholders and will continue to integrate community advice through regular meetings with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen and local municipal representatives.