FISHING rights aren’t included in the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum draft agreements in principle.
Kitsumkalum and Kitselas chief treaty negotiator Gerald Wesley said the decision to leave fishing out for now from negotiations leading to final agreements rests with a federal government decision made after it struck a Royal Commission to examine the Fraser River fishery.
The Cohen Commission was created to look into the reasons for the collapse of the 2009 Fraser River fishery and until its report is released and recommendations considered, the federal government said it won’t negotiate fishery agreements as part of land claims treaties.
Wesley said Kitsumkalum and Kitselas negotiators had the option of leaving talks altogether or continuing on with the understanding that a final agreement for each First Nation would only be negotiated when each one included fish.
In the end, the negotiators chose to keep working on the agreement in principle and address fishing later on.
“The lack of a completed fishing chapter would be a major concern,” said Wesley of what would happen if negotiations for a final agreement wound down without addressing aboriginal rights to fish and other marine resources.
As much as Wesley said he now will vote in favour of approving an agreement in principle for his home First Nation of Kitsumkalum, he’d feel quite different if fisheries remained unaddressed in a final agreement.
“It’s highly unlikely we would move on an agreement without fish,” he said.
Fishing provisions within land claims settlements with the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum would include food, ceremonial and commercial fishing provisions and allocations.
Financial aid is also available to First Nations seeking to develop commercial fisheries.