Tla'amin Chief Clint Williams holds a copy of his community's treaty at a ceremony in Powell River.

BC VIEWS: Making treaties in under 600 years

Governments seeking ways to settle aboriginal land claims more quickly, says Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad

B.C.’s fifth modern treaty took effect April 5, formalizing self-government for the Tla’amin Nation on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast.

The settlement includes Crown and reserve land in the Powell River area, in a traditional territory that includes Lasqueti, Texada and Cortes Islands as well as Comox on Vancouver Island.

It transfers 6,405 hectares of former provincial Crown land, including forest and mineral rights, plus a $33.9 million capital transfer and a $7.9 million economic development fund. Since the agreement was signed two years ago, the Tla’amin have endorsed a constitution that Chief Clint Williams said ensures transparent and accountable government.

“I think it gives us a little more leverage in speaking with B.C. and Canada, as we will own the land that we’re trying to conduct business on,” Williams said.

Tla’amin elder Elsie Paul had a more personal take on the long-awaited treaty.

“We can’t be stuck where we’ve been stuck forever, where we’re on reserve land, just for us,” she said. “It feels like you’re trapped there. And hopefully, those gates have opened, to also welcome people to come to our community.

“Because in the past, in my growing up years, we never had friends, people from Powell River or anywhere else. We were not allowed to have visitors, and we were not allowed to mingle in town with white people.”

Communities can also look to the example of the Tsawwassen First Nation, which has attracted $1 billion in new investment since its treaty was implemented in 2009.

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said the Tla’amin treaty shows the B.C. Treaty Commission is still working, despite having gone without a chief commissioner since the province refused to appoint one a year ago.

Rustad said that was a signal from the B.C. government that it can’t carry on at the current pace, which has seen one treaty on average every three years.

“And so if you do the extrapolation, we have 203 bands, that’s over 600 years of negotiations,” Rustad told me. “And even if we could find a way to accelerate that to the point where we’re celebrating a new treaty every year, that is still 200 years of negotiations.

“And that is why we didn’t go forward with a chief commissioner. We have to find a way to be able to do something more effectively.”

It gets worse. The Lheidli T’enneh First Nation near Prince George completed a treaty after years of work, only to see it rejected by a community vote in 2007. After nearly a decade, a second vote is scheduled for this fall.

And the Yale First Nation was to implement its treaty this month, but the new council for the 160-member village in the Fraser Canyon confirmed to Rustad last week that they want out.

The Yale agreement has been controversial from the start, with the larger Sto:lo Nation viewing the community as a splinter group controlling fishing sites contested for thousands of years. But the new Yale council is more sympathetic to the Sto:lo, so the latest setback could turn into a positive.

There have been previous efforts to deal with aboriginal rights and title on a broader scale. The latest one foundered after aboriginal leaders rejected a province-wide proposal offered by former premier Gordon Campbell.

Similar to the Sto:lo, the Tla’amin have a history of territorial overlap with the Klahoose, Sechelt and others.

Paul said there is a tradition of working together in her home region.

We’re building relationships with our neighbours, as well as building relationships with our neighbouring First Nations communities,” she said.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Kitsumkalum Walk for Health raises $17,500 for new hospital microscope

The 5 km walk is a new take on a 10-year old fundraiser for Mills Memorial

PHOTO GALLERY: Malicous Monster Truck Tour

The Malicious Monster Truck Tour sold out to crowds of 2,500 people… Continue reading

CMTN First Nations Fine Arts program offers new advanced diploma

The 10-month program will focus on enhancing jewellery, sculpture and marketing skills

Terrace spawns new salmon art festival

This week’s featured artist: Casey Braam

Back in business: former Sears franchisees go it alone

Boota and Diljit Uppal’s new store opens in same location

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

Wildfires erupt in B.C. Okanagan forcing evacuation orders and a highway closure

Check out a list of up-to-date information on blazes happening within the Kamloops Wildfire Centre.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

An evacuation alert has been issued by the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako… Continue reading

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Canadian Tire delivers toys to ease kids’ street play pain in B.C. neighbourhood

It’s like Christmas for 11 kids who are supposed to be confined to their yards by strata bylaw

Most Read