Criticism of treaty referendum grows 

As criticism over the native treaty referendum snowballs throughout the province, the Mount Currie band is again urging neighbouring community members to disregard their ballots.

"No civil disobedience is required," said Mount Currie CEO, Lyle Leo.

"Just ignore it."

He said there will be a collection box in the Mount Currie band office for anyone choosing to hand it in there rather than send in back to Elections B.C.

Failing that option, Leo said voters should simply put the ballots aside without answering the questions.

This strategy is somewhat in line with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs who are calling on ballot holders to participate in an active boycott.

Their idea is to send unsigned ballots to local band offices, labour councils or churches instead of to Elections B.C. to be counted.

The UBCIC maintains that sending a spoiled ballot back to the government will give the referendum process more credibility than it deserves.

Over the past week, as the ballots arrived in mailboxes throughout the province, a number of different organizations have spoken out against the eight-question referendum.

Joining in the protest are organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation, the B.C. Federation of Labour, the Muslim Canadian Foundation, and the B.C. Government and Services Employees' Union, among many others.

In an unprecedented move B.C.'s Anglican bishops also joined in on the protest, calling on their roughly 300,000 members to also boycott the ballots.

"I think it's a great show of true democracy that people will step forward and voice their concerns when the government of the day goes out of bounds," said Leo.

At best, referendum critics call the yes/no questions are misleading and confusing.

For example, the first question states:

• Private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements.

In the April 5 edition of the Vancouver Sun, renowned pollster Angus Reid wrote:

"This is confusing because the framers of this survey have stated the issue in the negative... the referendum uses the more controversial negative wording so that their side can have the advantage of being on the "Yes" side."

Then there is the issue of Aboriginal rights.

Some of the questions refer to rights, which are already enshrined in the Canadian constitution.

"The moral and legal rights of a minority should not be determined by the majority and that's especially true when we're talking about constitutional rights," said Angela Schira, secretary treasurer of the B.C. Federation of Labour.

The B.C. Federation of Labour represents 460,000 members from different unions. The Federation will continue to inform its members of the reasons for boycotting the referendum.

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