Tuesday, October 31, 2006

First treaty offers big hope for progress

VICTORIA - The Leheidli T'enneh is only a small First Nation, with barely 300 members in the Prince George area.
But the treaty deal just reached with the federal and provincial governments and could mark some very big progress in the long effort to resolve First Nations land claims in B.C.
After 13 years and hundreds of millions of dollars this is the first final agreement reached under the B.C. treaty process. That's important in itself. One of the problems in any set of multiple linked negotiations - like the treaty talks with more than 50 bands around the province - is that no one wants to sign that first agreement.
All the parties know that the first deal will inevitably set some benchmarks for every agreement to follow. As the people at one negotiating table get closer to a deal they grow increasingly worried about the long-term implications of the concessions and compromises they are making.
First Nations negotiators have another concern. They worry about getting yelled at by members if they sign a treaty agreement now and some other band manages to do better down the road. It's safer to wait.
The Leheidli T'enneh and governments worked through those barriers to reach the agreement signed in Prince George last weekend.
There's more reason for optimism. The treaty doesn't involve a huge amount of money or land. The Leheidli T'enneh have about 677 hectares in their current reserves. They will get another 3,650 hectares, including land within the City of Prince George. Even with the additional land, their holdings will still only be about 10 times the size of Stanley Park. The band will also get about $20 million in one-time payments and $400,000 a year for 50 years in guaranteed revenue-sharing money.
Those will undoubtedly be useful benchmarks for the parties at other negotiating tables.
But much more importantly, the deal tackles some of the critical non-monetary issues and comes up with pragmatic solutions that could be applied in other talks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example, has made much of his opposition to "race-based fisheries." But the federal government has accepted this deal, which guarantees the Lheidli T'enneh - subject to conservation concerns - a share of the Fraser River sockeye run for a commercial fishery. At other treaty tables the question of whether First Nations will be required to accept Agricultural Land Reserve restrictions on development has been a concern for neighbouring municipalities. This proposed treaty deals with the problem, setting out a negotiated agreement on which lands will continue to be considered within the reserve.
Another issue, particularly in the Lower Mainland, has been how - or whether - First Nations would work with neighbouring communities. Municipalities fear uncontrolled development or extreme tax policies that would threaten their management efforts. The settlement commits the Lheidli T'enneh to work with Prince George and the district to develop a harmonized tax structure and regional plan.
And the treaty resolves the issue of certainty, one of the big stumbling blocks in negotiations. First Nations fear the impact of signing away all future claims; governments want treaties to end uncertainty about land ownership and use. The agreement includes language that both sides accept as a reasonable solution, defining the treaty as a final resolution of land claims while allowing for an arbitration process if new issues rise.
First Nations have been insistent that there can be no province-wide template. The issues and solutions are different at treaty tables around the province, they have maintained, and agreements must reflect those differences.
But the reality is that negotiators will be able to build on this agreement, particularly in resolving issues like fisheries and certainty.
A lot could still go wrong. The provincial and federal governments now have to ratify the deal, a formality. But Lheidli T'enneh members also must vote on it and the band has set a 70-per-cent approval threshold.
But this deal remains the most promising road on the long path to treaties.
Footnote: The deal is timely. The weekend saw another meeting of representatives of more than 40 native communities who warned of mounting frustration and the risk of protest over the governments' position on key treaty issues. The Lheidli T'enneh agreement shows progress is possible.


Anonymous said...

Sort of reminds me of Sechelt a few years ago. The negotiations were very open, and some of us went to any meeting held on the lower island. Never saw a newspaper person at one of the main table meetings , information meetings or Regional Advisory meetings.The Minsiter appeared at the regional a number of times. Two MLa's showed up at the first step three signing, which was Sechelt. The band members did appear in fairly large numbers. So after the AIP was signed it was time for the band to vote. This band as I mention was very aware of what was involved. They voted it down with the excuse they didn't think they would have to pay taxes. What a bunch of BS. The subject was brought up many times.
I can name another few bands that were being heralded as the first urban treaty coming up six or seven years ago. Things got stalled a lot.
So even though we are now adding agriculture land to be removed, something that was never supposed to happen, I'd not bet on a final deal. as for seeing what the other guy gets first, and this is not a template are familiar words. But as soon as the Yukon group got a deal, it appeared on ever negotiating table and even observers like us got copies. Damn right there was a template, as was the Nisga'a when it was signed.The Deputy Minister of aboriginal affairs under the last government and under this one for awhile stated publically that a accelerated treaty should be form start to finish about one year and a few extra moths for the lawyers to sort out the fine points.

Don't want to rain on your parade Paul but a very few of us followed the process enough to see things fall apart. I spent over ten years working on the subject for us as occupiers of land set aside for Indians. OH , one more thing. The Sechelt Chief insisted on openness at all times and used to invite the hangers on, another fellow and myself to side table discussions, something that wasn't that common. The first time our group appeared as a Regional adisory Committee I raised three routes to follow
1. Status quo which doesn't work
2. Changes to the Indian act, which never seem to happen even thoug a numner of ministers has tried.
3. Modern treaties, in which almost 70 percent of the bands were in at the time.

The supreem Court of canada has said. To claim title you have an option. Prove it in court, or define your bundle of rights in Treaty negotiations. Gordo hated the nisga'a Trety, and had a referenum on the deal, got elceted and suddenly he started talking treaty. It's all so political it smells

Anonymous said...

From David Schreck:

"I plead guilty to having learned from something with regard to that." Premier Gordon Campbell, October 30th, 2006, on CBC Newsworld with Don Newman.

Newman asked Campbell what changed between Campbell's opposition to the Nisga'a treaty and his celebration of the proposed Lheidli T'enneh treaty.

Read the rest of Schreck's article at:

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Anonymous said...

A couple of us were at a meeting of the Standing Committee trying to get the peoples view of the Nisga'a Treaty settlement, back when the NDP was the government. They travelled the province and had a lot of presenters. We weren't presenting at that day. A fellow who turned out to be Martyne Brown was sitting close to us. On a break he wanted to know why non Indian Occupiers of land set aside were supporting the treaty process with such vigour. How did he know who we were?(I guess he noticed that most of the MLA's actually knew us. Why would you support the Nisga'a, he asked, when you couldn't vote, had to pay taxes and be subject to Indian laws? Well Martyne that's not quite true. We pay taxes now to bands instead of municipals as the municipal authorities can't use their bylaws on federal land, nor can we use their services. Seems we get about 20 percent of the benefits of municipal governance even though we were paying taxes to the municipals up till the federal self taxation scheme was adopted. And we were subjected to the federal Indian Act right now.

We will vote on issues that directly affect us, and the Indian laws must equal or be better than Federal and Provincial laws.If there is no Indian law in place, provincial and federal laws will be used. And the guy we have leases with will be in a position for the first time in history to be sued if he doesn't do what he says he will do. a lot of developments on land set aside are run by non Indian companies. It's gravy time for them as they are basically untouchable om many things nobody esle could get away with. They can sue us now. Section 28 of the Indian act will go away. I won't bother to recite what that little section says. Martyne went elsewhere. One of the non government MLA's asked me what Brown wanted with us? I told him. The guy reminded us that the reform party had stopped his job with them as he was pretty far right. Martyne made the big leap with Gordon Campbell the guy who hated the Nisga'a treaty in opposition, wanted to sue the government and finally had a referendum. So look no farther to figure out why Campbell got some of his ideas. And one more thing. Brian Smith, ex socred Cabinet minister spent a lot of time, after he left politics, talking to business folks who really don't like the lack of accountability and certainty around Indian issues.
It was quite a thrill to be invited to see secret dances and ceremonies, to be told to remember what you see as none of it is written or recorded. Token bits of money is given for the occasion.

A ex Liberal, provincially MLA publically broke with Campbell on the issue of treaties. He said, the premier, then leader was misinformed. Look no farther.

Business wants treaties for the same reasons we want treaties. Fairness, accountability, openness, legal right, women's rights, and a few other items I won't bore you with. One interesting thing was that as soon as Gordon took over, all the policy papers that were handed out freely to anyone who wanted them suddenly disappeared into some archives according to the new PR team. Anyone actually reading them would know what used to be policy on self government,agricultural land outsie the origonal reservation boundries, taxation and a lot of other issues. Since they had been so available I didn't bother to keep my collection. Maybe somebody could ask the Premier why they disappeared. I best go read David's article about Gordon's eyes being opened.Trudeau took a walk in the snow, Gordon took a walk down Bay Street.

Anonymous said...

Well Paul, it seems as usual that any article about modern treaties doesn't get a lot of posters either way. This is big time events. My God the local group Temex in and around Victoria are back at the table . They started off like a house on fire years ago and sort of petered out. Their mauntable is open to the citizens. It would be nice to se a few media folks actually get to one of these events. Or a few observers. Under the last government the results of the meetings were made public almost immediatly, and many main tables has Q& A after the dealing was done. I wonder if that is still the case? THis is my thoird attempt on thios story to get some folks interested. Not doing too well it would seem. But the results really will afect us all.