B.C. hopes to accelerate First Nations treaty negotiations, UBCM told
Posted by Zig Zag
By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun. September 21, 2015
B.C. is attempting to renew and complete treaty negotiations with local First Nations, but the minister for aboriginal relations acknowledges it won’t be easy.
Minister John Rustad said the province has been working with the First Nations Summit and federal government to review and jumpstart treaty negotiations, which in some cases have been stalled for more than a decade.
The Katzie First Nation, for instance, has been in stage four of treaty negotiations for 10 years.
“Maybe it’s out of our reach but we have to do something,” Rustad said, following a session on First Nations at the Union of B.C. Municipalities [UBCM]. “We can’t wait for another generation. Well, obviously we can but we don’t want to. What would that achieve?”
A report from the First Nations Summit and federal government is expected at the end of this year.
Rustad said he hopes the information will help accelerate the treaty process, noting there are about 40 land claims on the table with half of those, such as the Katzie, fairly advanced.
Katzie Chief Susan Miller said it’s ridiculous the treaty process has taken so long. “We have a right to grow, a right to become economically independent,” she told UBCM delegates.
Rustad noted some of the issues holding up the process include everything from fishing and hunting rights to how to deal with claims on private lands.
The Katzie reserve, for instance, is finding itself increasingly hemmed in by municipal and private developments.
The band, which has reserves in Langley, Barnston Island and Pitt Meadows, is claiming unceded territories in those areas as well as Maple Ridge, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.
Rustad said he’s hopeful an agreement can be reached with the Katzie. “When you look at the results of the Tsawwassen and the Nisga’a, the way they’re engaged and building their futures, we want to see that across the province,” he said.
But Harry Nyce, a director with the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District who negotiated for the Nisga’a, said First Nations shouldn’t expect too much.
He noted the Nisga’a was disappointed with how much land and money it received on the treaty process but that was all that available because the process wasn’t started soon enough.
“It’s taking too long,” Nyce said, saying the federal government is too arrogant or “afraid to the do the right thing.
“When First Nations come to the notion of claims and getting traditional lands back in this day and age, in the 21st century that’s not going to happen,” said Nyce, a past president of the UBCM. “For the government to provide some of these traditional lands back all they can do is money.”