An effort to expand the area of the Okanagan Indian Band is "nearing its final stage", the federal government says.
Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller has now provided a reply to questions raised by Kelowna-Lake Country MP Tracy Gray on when the popular Okanagan Rail Trail might be extended through the OKIB reserve.
Since 2016, the federal government has been working on an 'addition to reserve' process that will formally transfer a two-kilometre section of the former CN railway corridor to the jurisdiction of the band.
Given the four years the process has taken so far, Gray asked Miller earlier this month when the jurisdictional transfer would be complete. Miller did not immediately respond in the House of Commons, but he has now sent a reply directly to Gray.
"While there is no definite timeline as to when the Addition to Reserve will be completed, regional officials in British Columbia have confirmed the Addition to Reserve process is nearing its final stage as the Okanagan Indian Band works to satisfy certain Addition to Reserve process requirements," Miller wrote.
On the federal government's website, the Addition to Reserve process is described as "typically lengthy and complex - taking an average of five to seven years to complete".
Reasons for the process taking so long, the website says, include a requirement that the Indigenous community that's interested in expanding its reserve are "required to negotiate agreements with local governments to include service provision, by-law harmonization and land use planning".
From January to September 2019, 47 additions to reserve were approved across Canada, covering more than 15,000 ha.
Without the Okanagan Rail Trail extending through the OKIB reserve, hikers and cyclists have to detour onto the shoulders of busy Highway 97. Minus the missing link, the trail extends 49 km from Coldstream to downtown Kelowna.