VANCOUVER - A B.C. Supreme Court judge has rejected a call to delay a First Nations treaty vote that has caused deep divisions within an aboriginal community.
The Sliammon First Nation, located near Powell River on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast, has been negotiating a treaty with the provincial and federal governments for the past 18 years.
The initial treaty vote was prevented last month when the group calling itself the Protectors of Sliammon Sovereignty stopped members from entering the polling station.
The same group went to court Monday, claiming that voting abnormalities and flawed voter enrolment should force the court to delay Tuesday's vote by members of the First Nation.
But Judge John Savage ruled late Monday that "there is no evidence the process itself is flawed."
He added the argument should have been heard by a federal court because the B.C. Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over such cases.
The sovereignty group's lawyer, Katherine Hensel, told the court earlier that the voting process was "rushed" and "sloppy."
There is much skepticism around the voting process, including the voter enrolment process, Hensel said.
"The community has to be able to trust each other and trust the process to move forward," she said.
But Gregory McDade, the lawyer for the Sliammon Treaty Society, argued the opposition has had ample time to formally protest the process and said Tuesday's vote should proceed as scheduled.
McDade alleged the request for an injunction was a desperate attempt by treaty opponents to stop a vote it was likely to lose.
"If you don't like the chapters in a treaty, you vote 'no,'" he said.
Brandon Peters of the sovereignty group said he didn't expect to win because it would set a precedent that could derail other treaty votes.
"I kind of knew it from the very beginning," said Peters. "The judge was probably angry we put this burning car wreck in his courtroom."
Peters said his group will make no attempt to stop people from voting Tuesday, adding that it has done all it can.
Peters said his group represents more than 200 people who signed a petition sharing his concerns about the vote in which about 700 people will participate.
Last month, the court put in place an injunction preventing members of the sovereignty group from blockading the polling station, an injunction Savage refused to overturn.
In court, Hensel said the vote has split the community and the initial blockade was an act of desperation from a side that said its concerns were being dismissed.
There are about 1,000 members of the Sliammon First Nation.
If ratified, the treaty would give band members more than 8,300 hectares of land, self government and $30 million in cash.