B.C. not blameless on Columbia River Treaty

"One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the U.S. was not necessarily the Big Bad Wolf we would like to make them out to be."

Re: U.S. ripping us off on water (B.C. Views, Trail Times Jan. 6).

I am a scholar of Columbia River Treaty history and live in the region where all the losses occurred. My own upcoming book about the treaty, A River Captured, represents a decade of research and travel across the Columbia Basin on both sides of the boundary. This is a big, complex story that deserves lots of attention.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the U.S. was not necessarily the Big Bad Wolf we would like to make them out to be.

In fact, the U.S. formally asked Canada in the 1930s if this country had an interest in those salmon that would be blocked and it was Canada that said no. Had Canada’s response been different, we might have gotten that fish ladder and saved our unique Interior salmon runs.

There was considerably controversy over the treaty between its signing in 1961 and its ratification by Canada in 1964.

During that time, the agreement was on the edge of being tossed out, with Prime Minister Lester Pearson actively promoting the negotiation of a new treaty during his 1963 election campaign.

The U.S., as a result of their own shifting water policies, would have very likely cooperated with changing or scrapping that treaty. It was Canada’s federal bureaucrats who went into high gear to justify what had been signed and make sure it went through.

There is no question in my mind that Canada and B.C.’s government agencies played a very significant role in making the mess we got in 1964.

Eileen Delehanty PearkesNelson

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