Treaty overhaul aims to speed up talks

New federal minister Carolyn Bennett agrees to work with B.C. on 'stepping stones' approach to aboriginal land claims

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad

The B.C. government’s demand for a new approach to treaty negotiations has been heard by the new federal government, Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad says.

The province signalled its discontent with the slow progress in settling treaties last year, when it abruptly refused to appoint former B.C. cabinet minister George Abbott to lead the B.C. Treaty Commission. Rustad noted that at the current pace, it would take 600 years to negotiate all the agreements B.C. still lacks.

Federal, provincial and B.C. First Nations Summit representatives have been meeting since then to seek improvements to a system that has completed only four treaties in two decades. They released a report Tuesday that Rustad says adopts a key change pioneered in B.C. – “stepping stones” to agreement.

The report also proposes negotiating “core treaties” with the main elements, then adding side agreements later on, he said.

“It’s the idea of trying to advance and complete components of treaties and implement them, rather than trying to get it all done at once, so that nations can start seeing the benefits and help to build support and momentum towards completing the negotiations,” Rustad said.

In a joint statement, federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett promised to work to implement the changes. The federal government has been repeatedly blamed by aboriginal and B.C. representatives for slow progress, in offering cash settlements for historic resource extraction and assigning shares of federally regulated salmon harvests.

First Nations Summit representative Cheryl Casimer agreed with Rustad that adopting the changes clears the way to the three partners appointing a new chief commissioner, a position left vacant for the past year.

B.C. began its “stepping stones” strategy a decade ago with forest agreements, transferring Crown forest lands to aboriginal communities. It then introduced mine royalty sharing agreements.

Rustad said the previous federal government resisted the incremental approach to settling aboriginal land claims and expected final agreements to be complete before they were endorsed by Parliament.

Since the Nisga’a treaty was established in 2000 outside the B.C. process, the B.C. Treaty Commission has produced treaties with five communities negotiating jointly as the Maa-Nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island, the Tsawwassen First Nation in the Lower Mainland, the Yale First Nation in the Fraser Canyon and the Tla’amin First Nation in the Powell River area.

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Police seeking witnesses to fatal Surrey hit-and-run

A pedestrian was killed Thursday night in a crash on Highway 10 near 152nd Street

Surrey woman with autism has scooter stolen from SkyTrain station

Kayla Polege purchased scooter after ‘shutdowns’ on transit

‘Old-Timers’ bring competitive hockey to North Delta rink

A group of 600 athletes ages 50 and older meet weekly to compete in Canada’s winter sport

Students lend hand decorating Ocean Park Community Orchard shed

Grade 1-2 classes from Ocean Cliff Elementary at South Surrey garden Friday.

Phase three of ‘King George Hub’ development moves forward

Coast Capital Savings headquarters next to King George SkyTrain was phase one of the project

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

UPDATE: Police ID man in suspicious Richmond death

A body was found in the area of Garden City and Odlin Roads in Richmond just after 8:30am Thursday

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

Hospice to B.C. council race candidate dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Tilray Inc sees $10-billion in market cap go up in smoke

Tilray’s share price closed at $123 US on Friday, a decline from its intraday peak of nearly $300 US earlier in the week

Breast density to be included in mammogram results across B.C.

The information is crucial in proactively reducing the risk of breast cancer, doctors say

Canada to boost support for riskier forms of renewable energy: minister

A $30-million contribution to a $117-million tidal project hopes to harness the immense power of the Bay of Fundy

B.C. watching Trans Mountain review, George Heyman says

Court decision stalling pipeline ‘validates’ environmental concerns

Most Read