Says Treaty Commission in 14th Annual Report - Breakthroughs underline diverging views



    VICTORIA, BC, Dec. 4 /CNW/ - Treaties are being ratified and celebrated
against a backdrop of criticism and re-evaluation among those First Nations
that see no future in treaty negotiations without changes.
    The Tsawwassen First Nation and Maa-nulth First Nations treaties are
achievements of significance for all British Columbians and demonstrate that
agreements can be reached. A number of other treaty tables are close to
reaching final agreement, says the Treaty Commission in its annual report for
2007.
    However, while there is success at some treaty tables, there remain
considerable gaps between the parties at others. In all, about 20 tables
report making progress in negotiations; another 14 tables are struggling due
to significant differences in positions and the remaining 24 are doing very
little or nothing at the treaty table. For many First Nations these treaties
do not represent their idea of true reconciliation.
    There is no doubt the BC Supreme Court judgment by Justice Vickers in
Tsilhqo'tin v. British Columbia will have an impact on the treaty negotiations
but the extent of that impact remains unclear and its implications may not be
known for some time. Justice Vickers said the court was ill equipped to effect
a reconciliation of competing interests and encouraged the parties to
negotiate.
    Acting Chief Commissioner Jack Weisgerber said, "The Treaty Commission
recognizes the historic achievement of the tables that have reached final
agreement and is committed to working with First Nations as they seek to
fulfill their vision of a treaty."
    Working with First Nations to resolve overlaps is becoming a growing area
for the Treaty Commission. Recent court decisions have provided an additional
incentive for overlaps to be resolved by the First Nations involved.
    First Nation leaders gathered last week to work on solutions. One avenue
the commissioners did consider was the concept of a common table that was
being advanced by First Nation signatories to the unity protocol. The common
table would allow the parties to negotiate and develop options for the treaty
issues that many First Nations say are preventing progress in treaty
negotiations. Specifically, they want changes to certainty provisions,
constitutional status of treaty lands, governance, co-management throughout
traditional territories, fiscal relations and taxation, and fisheries.
    The Treaty Commission would be prepared to convene and facilitate a
high-level, common table for those First Nations with a shared interest in
negotiating specific treaty chapters.
    There is no question that treaty content matters. The Treaty Commission
has learned from the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation experience that, in addition
to content, a lack of understanding of treaty benefits and future options can
also be major factors in a treaty defeat.
    "There is much work to be done in explaining the contents of these
treaties and their significance," said Commissioner Robert Phillips. "We've
started that work by hosting a conference in November that brought First
Nations with treaties from across Canada together with BC First Nations."





For further information:

For further information: Brian Mitchell, Communications Manager, (604)
482-9215, or (604) 788-5190, info@bctreaty.net; Kenzie Andrews, Communications
Officer, (604) 482-9217, info@bctreaty.net

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BRITISH COLUMBIA TREATY COMMISSION

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