Co-creating New Decision-Making Processes for Environmental Protection

Background

The kłusxnitkʷ (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Planning Initiative (OKLRPI) was developed as a syilx-led response to the large-scale loss of natural areas reported in the Okanagan Lake Foreshore Inventory and Mapping (FIM) reports from 2005, 2009 and 2016. The initiative was designed to address impacts threatening the long-term viability of Okanagan Lake and its ecosystems to provide clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife, erosion and flood control, and climate change mitigation.

Complexities in land and water management within the region range from insufficient formal indigenous representation in governance, to lack of coordinated approaches across jurisdictions. The project brings together the Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA) and its communities, all levels of government, and conservation organizations in a process to address the cumulative impacts of development, environmental degradation, resource extraction, and to identify ways of implementing syilx traditional knowledge for strengthening environmental protection for the Okanagan watershed.

To date, the planning process of the OKLRPI consisted of interviews with syilx leadership and community members and non-syilx government staff and elected officials, a gap analysis on environmental legislation policy, and 10 syilx-led capacity building workshops. The process resulted in the identification of barriers and over 100 solutions for the systemic issues for greater environmental and cultural protection.

In 2022, the working group will undertake the development of the kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Action Plan. This Action Plan is a key component from the Syilx siwɬkʷ Water Strategy. The goal of the Responsibility Plan is to change and provide guidance for new land use decision-making processes, policies, and practices for stronger environmental protection that are guided by syilx values for meaningful and lasting change. This work will support the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).

Process

The kłusxnitkʷ (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Planning Initiative (OKLRPI) incorporates a syilx-led planning process, bringing the voices of Elders, youth, knowledge holders, hunters, fishers, and harvesters to articulate and share the syilx values associated with Okanagan Lake stewardship. This Pilot process is offering new ways for syilx and non-syilx partners to work together in co-creating a vision and a framework for the kɬúsx̌nítkw (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Action Plan.

The OKLRPI process is being coordinated by Okanagan Nation Alliance (ONA), the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program (OCCP), the Regional District of Central Okanagan, the Province of British Columbia (FLNRORD), and UBC Okanagan.

Timeline

2018: Representatives from local and regional governments, First Nations, and nongovernmental organizations came together to discuss collaborative ways for improving shoreline management for the protection of natural areas around Okanagan Lake. This working group recognized the need for a multi-jurisdictional approach and a syilx-led process for identifying and developing best practices.

2019: Formal support was attained by way of resolutions from the ONA Chief and Council (CEC), Mayors and Councils, and Regional Boards of Directors. The OKLRPI coordinating team established 10 guiding principles based on shared decision-making & responsibility, and inclusion of indigenous leadership.

2019 workshop with over 50 representatives from all levels of government, indigenous communities and conservation organizations to examine the major issues affecting Okanagan Lake.

2020: The OKLRPI coordinating team hired Ecoscape Environmental Ltd., to conduct a policy review of the environmental protection measures for Okanagan Lake’s shorelines, tributaries and watershed. This work included workshops, gap analysis on environmental legislation, and interviews with senior management that resulted in the identification of a lack of understanding of syilx and non-syilx planning processes.

2020 syilx Water Values and Perspectives Outdoor Sessions in Gellatly Nut Farm Park, West Kelowna.

2021: The OKLRPI coordinating team organized several syilx-led facilitated discussions & capacity building workshops. The experiential learning opportunities focused on syilx ways of caring for the land including syilx water laws, established power sharing for land use decision-making, using TEK and western science in designing good practices and developing recommendations that support the implementation the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA).

2022: The initiative will complete interviews with syilx leadership and community members and non-syilx government staff and elected officials to gather input and direction for the development of kłusxnitkʷ (Okanagan Lake) Responsibility Action Plan.

Additional Resources

For more information on this initiative visit:
https://www.syilx.org/projects/k%c9%acusxnitk%ca%b7-okanagan-lake-responsibility-planning-initiative/

For additional readings & resources on water management visit:
http://okcp.ca/index.php/resources/water-management