Land deals made ahead of historic treaty vote

Chief Archie: incremental agreements are a 'stepping stone' for building trust

A historic signing ceremony saw North Shuswap chiefs sign incremental treaty agreements in Williams Lake on Feb. 5. Posing for the event were back row: Chris Wycotte

A historic signing ceremony saw North Shuswap chiefs sign incremental treaty agreements in Williams Lake on Feb. 5. Posing for the event were back row: Chris Wycotte

First Nations in the Cariboo region are close to reclaiming historical territory after coming to land-transfer agreements with the provincial government ahead of a Feb. 11 vote on ongoing treaty negotiations.

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw (NStQ) represents four First Nations, including the Canim Lake Band, whose eligible members are voting today (Feb. 11) on a treaty Agreement-in-Principle being negotiated with British Columbia and Canada.

On Feb. 5, the parties released a statement on their “incremental treaty agreements” that could potentially see the transfer of up to 3,760 hectares of Crown land to Tsq’escen’ First Nation (Canim Lake), Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem First Nation (Canoe/Dog Creek), Xat’sūll First Nation (Soda Creek) and T’exelc First Nation (Williams Lake), in advance of a final treaty.

The land-transfer agreements are seen as a symbol of “goodwill” as negotiations proceed into the final stages.

The transfers are set to take place in two phases.

Phase 1 would begin after a successful ratification of the treaty Agreement-in-Principle and phase 2 would begin after a Final Agreement is concluded.

Canim Lake is set to receive 105.4 ha in two parcels after phase 1 and 648 ha in two parcels after phase 2.

According to the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, the incremental treaty agreements also include funding for construction of fencing to address the interests of cattle ranchers affected.

They are said to provide treaty-related benefits in advance of Final Agreements, which will likely take many more years to negotiate.

We are pleased that British Columbia has recognized the many years of hard work and dedication that our people have put into a future of self-determination, going back over 100 years, and more recently since we entered the modern treaty process in 1993,” says Canim Lake Band Chief Mike Archie, who adds the incremental agreements are a “stepping stone” for building trust.

This commitment gives us hope for our future by creating incentives to reach milestones and provide increased assurance over our lands, economic development and resources. We owe a debt of gratitude to our Canim Lake elders who began the process, and today honour those who have since passed on.”

John Rustad, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, says he believes the agreements will help create jobs and economic opportunities for both First Nations and surrounding communities. “Incremental treaty agreements are made-in-B.C. innovations, and one of the many ways B.C. is partnering with First Nations to advance reconciliation, and economic and social development.”

The treaty negotiations with the federal and provincial governments cover a wide range of territory, governance and resources issues, and are considered a path toward greater self-determination for First Nations.

Close to 600 of the NStQ’s 2,500 members are eligible to vote in the Feb. 11 referendum.

The referendum will decide whether negotiators continue into the Stage 5 of the six-stage BC Treaty Process, which was started more than 20 years ago.