High up on Christy Clark’s ‘to do’ list when she unveils her new cabinet and new direction has to be aboriginal treaty settlements.
Too few treaties have been signed since the federal and provincial and First Nations agreed on the principle of negotiated treaties recognizing self government and control over resources.
(In this region, the 2000 Nisga’a treaty was negotiated outside of the established treaty process while the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum, just this year, approved agreements in principle leading toward final talks after more than 17 years of negotiations.)
Premier Clark must decide on a political direction for treaty settlements that, in concert with the federal government, seeks to hasten progress.
At the moment the political end of land claims has fallen way behind the economic reality of relations with aboriginal peoples. Pick any major project in this region from BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line, to mines, to liquefied natural gas plants plans and the pipelines to feed them and you’ll find some kind of economic deal signed with a First Nation or a promise of signing one.
These deals so far fall under the broad “consult and accommodate” approach that’s been developed thanks to court rulings.
The challenge for the premier is to now find a political model that fits with the growing economic importance of aboriginal peoples.