Pushing ahead with First Nation treaty negotiations

Pushing ahead with First Nation treaty negotiations

British Columbia Treaty Commission moves forward on 14 negotiations involving 32 First Nations.

The British Columbia Treaty Commission says the political climate provincially and federally is ripe for pushing ahead stalled First Nation treaty negotiations.

The commission released its annual report Wednesday saying 14 negotiations involving 32 First Nations are in the advanced stages, and chief commissioner Celeste Haldane said the goal is to see those treaties signed in the next two years.

“The process has momentum now,” she said. “Communities are … able to break the shackles of the Indian Act, they’re truly self governing, they’re truly self-determining, and they’re actually doing things the way they want to based on what their communities’ needs are, I think that’s incredibly important.”

The commission was established in 1992 as an independent body to facilitate treaty negotiations between B.C. First Nations, the provincial and federal governments. There have been eight modern treaties signed in the province.

Commissioner Jerry Lampert said the discourse in Ottawa that indicates an interest in reconciliation as well as a noticeable “sea change” in Victoria with the new NDP government are encouraging.

“We see certain moves being made from the prime minister on down that indicate that the federal government wants to see progress,” he said. “That high level conversation has to get down to the grass-roots levels at the tables we attend where the negotiations take place.”

Since negotiations began in May 1993, the Commision has allocated $707 million in negotiation support funding 60 First Nations. The commission report says $551 million of that funding is in loans to the bands, while $156 million is a non-repayable funding contribution.

B.C.’s Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser said the negotiation process needs to be improved so treaties can be reached sooner and First Nations aren’t left ”burdened with debt.”

“How treaties are negotiated, as well as government’s internal processes and mandates, must evolve to better reflect case law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Fraser said in a news release.

The report said local and regional governments have also played a key role in finalizing recent treaty negotiations.

“When a First Nation prospers the whole region prospers,” Haldane said at a news conference. “If I look at the history of our country and the way our country was built, Indigenous communities were left out, in essence, and they haven’t necessarily been a part or a benefactor of that economic boom of the local economy and now we’re flipping the page for those communities to be truly meaningful partners.”

The report said the treaty for the Tla’amin Nation, on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, was signed in 2016 thanks to a push from the Powell River mayor and councillors who went to Ottawa to advocate for its completion.

The report said the Tla’amin and the Powell River council now work together on regional plans that including real estate and resource development.

Commissioner Tom Happynook, from the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, said a treaty has ensured his community now has complete control over land and infrastructure issues, a past frustration for the band.

He said it once took seven months for his community to get permission under the Indian Act to move fallen trees after a storm, and months longer to sell the trees and gain access to the funds.

“We are moving forward with our people’s desires, we are in such a different place than we were before shackled to the Indian Act,” Happynook said.

The commission said 65 First Nations out of the 200 Indian Act bands in B.C. are participating in or have already completed treaty negotiations.

Linda Givetash, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
Man arrested in West Kelowna for stealing police bait car

The suspect has been identified as Raymond Francis Thiffault of Kamloops, who already had an outstanding Canada-wide warrant.

Rose Valley Elementary School. (Contributed)
Central Okanagan School sees second COVID-19 exposure in two days

An exposure was identified at Rose Valley Elementary on April 12 and 13

(Natalia Cuevas-Huaico - Kelowna Capital News)
The Central Okanagan Food Bank said it has seen an increase in people who need help as the pandemic continues. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News/FILE)
Increase in families, seniors using Central Okanagan Food Bank as pandemic continues

Current restrictions have hit the Okanagan’s hospitality workers hard

Marylou Jensen. (Contributed)
Missing senior located, Kelowna RCMP confirms

Marylou Jensen left her home in the 900-block of Grenfell Road on foot at 5 p.m. on Tuesday

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. sees 873 more COVID-19 cases Tuesday, decline continues

Hospitalizations up to 377, two more deaths for 1,515 total

Bylaw enforcement officer Marcel Bedard sits behind the wheel of his 2004 Chevy Cavalier in 2017. He retired on April 9, 2021 after 24 years working for the City of Salmon Arm. (File photo)
Salmon Arm bylaw officer parks his parking tickets after 24 years

Despite the insults that go with the job, Marcel Bedard enjoyed his work for the city

FILE – People hold signs during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. to request federal exemption for simple drug possession

Announcement comes on 5-year anniversary of B.C.’s first public health emergency

(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, FIle)
Rare blood clots ‘may be linked’ to AstraZeneca vaccines: Health Canada

One case of the adverse effect has been reported in Canada

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP are looking for the rightful owners of two standup paddleboards seized in an investigation March 19, 2021. (RCMP)
Is this your SUP?: Vernon police

Two standup paddleboards seized by police to be returned

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

Two men were seen removing red dresses alongside the Island Highway in Oyster Bay. (Submitted photo)
Observers ‘gutted’ as pair filmed removing red dresses hung along B.C. highway

Activists hung the dresses to raise awareness for Indigenous Murdered/Missing Women & Girls

Most Read