VANCOUVER - Members of a group blocking people from voting on an aboriginal treaty on the Sunshine Coast say the vote must be stopped because it is tainted by ineligible voters and bribery, a charge the band's chief denies.
The group calling itself the Protectors of Sliammon Sovereignty suggested cash payments to band members and dinner cruises hosted by those in favour of the treaty were akin to bribes.
The group also said people with no blood relation to the Sliammon band are being enrolled to vote on the deal.
But, Sliammon Chief Clint Williams said those accusations are misleading.
The vote was to take place June 16 on the reserve near Powell River, but a dozen or more of the group's members have been preventing voters from making it to the polling station.
The group said out of 700 eligible voters, it represents about 240 people who signed a petition sharing their concerns.
Brandon Peters, a spokesman for the group opposing the treaty, said part of it guarantees a $15,000 cash payment to band members more than 65 years old if the treaty is ratified.
"That's not democratic," he said. "When money becomes involved, democracy ceases to be a democracy."
He also said dinner cruises where alcohol was served were meant to curry favour.
But Williams said the boat cruises were meant to show band members what land parcels are involved in the treaty and that dinner, not drinks, was part of the outing.
"Somebody in our community had their own private cruise and they took drinks on their private cruise, which was a private birthday party," he said.
"They're (the treaty opponents) trying to mix these two together and it's really quite silly."
The Protectors of Sliammon Sovereignty have also said people without native status are turning up to be enrolled to vote, but Williams said all those registered to vote have met the eligibility criteria.
Earlier this week, Mary Polak, B.C.'s aboriginal relations and reconciliation minister, accused the group of trying to intimidate voters.
She said Thursday the opposition group is small and she said when she looked at their petition it had duplicate names.
"There's no question that the group who wishes to block the vote are a very, very small group..." said Polak. "Even those who do not feel favourable to treaty want to vote."
Polak again accused the group of intimidation, bullying and using scare tactics.
"But more so, the intimidation has come in the form of very wild allegations," she said.
Peters said his group members feel they are the ones who have been victims of intimidation at the hands of band council. Group members say councillors have refused to listen to dissent at council meetings and won't give straight answers to questions.
Peters also said some people fear they could be refused service at local businesses if people know their views on the treaty.
The treaty has been in negotiations for more than a decade. If ratified, it would give band members more than 8,300 hectares of land, self government and $30 million dollars in cash.
But opponents of the treaty say it will exclude the band from claiming new discoveries on land they consider to be theirs.
Polak said a new date for the vote may announced in the coming few days.