A Look at BC’s Treaty Process

Practice Point

A Look at BC’s Treaty Process

UVIC PROF AND NUU-CHAH-NULTH TRIBAL COUNCIL PRESIDENT DR. JUDITH SAYERS TAKES A LOOK AT WHY many First Nations in BC are not involved in the modern treaty process:

Those that have been opposed to the process have done so on several grounds.  One is that a true nation-to-nation relationship would mean that BC is not a party to the agreement and does not have jurisdiction to negotiate treaties. Those opposed to the “modern treaty” process also say that what is being negotiated is not a treaty. This is the BC Treaty Process and what is actually negotiated are Final Agreements.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada explains the treaty negotiation process here. More information is available at the website of the BC Treaty Commission.

In a brief from the Yellowhead Institute, Dr. Sayers writes that “the Final Agreements of land claims settlements achieved to date under the BC Treaty Process establish settlement lands as fee simple ‘plus’ lands.  They all have similar provisions that ‘modify’ or ‘exhaust’ Aboriginal title lands in ways that fundamentally alter their collective, inherent, sui generis status under both Canadian and Indigenous law.”

Dr. Sayers examines federal policy toward Aboriginal title claims to unceded land in BC:

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has provisions about the right of indigenous peoples to their lands and resources, including the right to not have them taken away.[4] Both the Government of Canada and BC have committed to implement the Declaration. The Government of BC has stated that they recognize the unceded territories of Indigenous peoples in BC. With such strong statements from the governments, the issue of Aboriginal title should be easily resolved.  The problem is that they don’t like to give up lands and resources or sharing the wealth they have achieved from the dispossession of First Nations from their lands.

The governments, courts, and the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action,[5] do not recognize that First Nations lands were not taken legally. There were no treaties, no war, and there was certainly no discovery. All of these government institutions and commissions have stated that First Nations need to prove their title, when the onus should be on the federal government to prove how they legally took the lands.

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We acknowledge that the land on which we work is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.