A FIRST-EVER amendment to the Nisga’a Treaty should be wrapped up early in the new year.
It removes a small section of land from the Nisga’a Lava Bed Memorial Park so that the Northwest Transmission Line can be built across it.
The removal of 10.5 hectares from the Class A provincial park was negotiated earlier this year as part of a deal between BC Hydro and the Nisga’a Nation, providing the latter with financial and other benefits tied to the line’s construction.
Although the removal was contained in a piece of provincial legislation this spring, changes to the park come under the terms of the 2000 Nisga’a Treaty and changing the treaty requires the approval of the Nisga’a, the provincial government and the federal government.
The provincial government needed a motion of the provincial legislature, which occurred Nov. 23 and will now be ratified by an order of the provincial cabinet.
Speaking in the legislature Nov. 23, provincial aboriginal relations minister Mary Polak called the amendment “historic” because it is the first one to be made within a modern land claims treaty.
“This motion demonstrates the common vision of British Columbia and the Nisga’a Nation to support economic certainty and increased investment in the northwest,” she said.
Skeena New Democrat MLA Robin Austin agreed.
Speaking afterward outside of the legislature, Austin said the amendment provisions demonstrate co-operation and consistency in economic development affecting corporations and First Nations.
“The Nisga’a will benefit from the Northwest Transmission Line. There will be work along the line where it runs through their territory,” he said.
“And by agreeing to this route, the Nisga’a have saved BC Hydro tens of millions of dollars in construction costs, as I understand it, and that’s a savings for the Nisga’a and for everyone else as BC Hydro ratepayers,” Austin continued.
Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens said formal approval by the Nisga’a will happen when its legislature meets next month.
“There won’t be enough Nisga’a in the Nass Valley for all the jobs that will happen,” said Stevens of the impact of the transmission line and related development. “And there won’t be enough people in Terrace, either.”
There’s no firm date yet when the federal government will give its formal approval for the treaty amendment.
That approval takes the form of an Order in Council signed by the federal cabinet.