Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in Whitehorse in 2017. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

New rights-based approach to First Nations treaty-making rolled out

A new co-operatively developed policy could renew treaty-making with recognition of rights

It could kick-start treaty negotiations in B.C.

Canada, B.C. and First Nations Summit officials have together hammered out a new “rights-based” policy for treaty negotiations in B.C. to replace the previous one-size-fits-all approach.

The ‘Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia’ policy will usher in a new way of dealing with treaties.

“It’s a substantive transformation,” said Carolyn Bennett, federal minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations in a phone interview. “It felt historic because it means no longer do people have to surrender their rights in order to get out from under the Indian Act.”

Terry Horne, chief of Yakweakioose First Nation near Chilliwack, said his community is part of the six- member Stó:lō Xwexwilmexw Treaty Association, which is at Stage 5 in the treaty process.

“It’s all good stuff, and it’s what we had during our negotiations,” said Chief Horne about the rights-based approach. “The big change is not having to extinguish rights and title to enter the process got put back on the table.”

Although the SXTA expects to sign a final agreement within the next five years, and this new policy could help other Indigenous groups.

“It does set some standards,” said Horne. “When we were in negotiations, we were pushing these same boundaries, which were groundbreaking, and were the first.”

The new policy was co-developed by treaty principals — Canada, the First Nations Summit and British Columbia — to offer guidance on how treaties, agreements and other arrangements are to be negotiated, consistent with the constitution, and commitments to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C., as well as international law, Indigenous laws and legal orders.

With the federal budget of 2019 containing provisions for forgiving treaty loans, the new policy could also be incentive for those who left the treaty process or never entered to begin with, Minister Bennett said.

The new policy “clears the way” for recognition of Indigenous rights and title, including self-determination, and could lead to restoring trust in the process, said Robert Phillips, a member of the First Nations Summit political executive.

“I think this will be very significant in making progress in treaty negotiations,” Phillips said, calling it “a breakthrough, and a step toward reconciliation.”

There might be some naysayers but he urges them to look closely at what’s in the policy.

The central feature is basing negotiations on the recognition and continuation of rights without those rights being modified, surrendered or extinguished when a treaty is signed.

“From this recognition, and more importantly the implementation of this new approach, it will foster more of a relationship between First Nations and the Crown. Parties would enter negotiations in the past and it was like a divorce. This is more of a relationship,” said Phillips.

It could help address longstanding issues that became obstacles as the treaty policy stalled over the years.

“We look forward to the breakthroughs that should result from these long-awaited innovations,” he added.

It also includes commitments to address shared or overlapping territories, and to respect the rights of Indigenous groups not participating in the B.C. treaty process.

A made-in-B.C. treaty negotiations process was created in 1992. Since then, 11 First Nations in B.C. have reached modern treaties with self-government and 28 First Nations groups are now in the advanced stages of negotiation.

READ MORE: Six First Nations signed new treaty


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

CRIMESTOPPERS: Williams Lake RCMP seek public’s assistance

Williams Lake RCMP released three names of people they are looking for

CRD board on the road travels to Tatla Lake

Broadband, plastics, cycling, grants for assistance and economic development were on the agenda

How closely are you following the federal election?

The weekly web poll for the 100 Mile Free Press

Treasure in Lone Butte: woman discovers time capsule while metal-detecting

A White Rock woman is eager to complete a South Cariboo treasure hunt from 2002

Three local schools see registration numbers drop for 2019-2020 school year

Despite some local schools experiencing a registration drop, others saw their student body increase

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Most Read