Regarding Recent Treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation

Regarding Recent Treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation

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John Ahni Schertow
January 21, 2007
 

I haven’t actually seen the treaty yet, so I’m going to reserve comment for now, but here are a few stories about this. If you are familiar with this treaty, know where i can find it, or have your own thoughts about this, please add a comment here. I’d like to hear what you have to say. – Ahni.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007
New treaty a sham
By Bill Tieleman, billtieleman.blogspot.com

The tentative treaty between the Tsawwassen First Nation and the provincial and federal governments must be rejected.

It is totally unacceptable that the treaty terms would take 207 hectares of valuable farmland out of the Agricultural Land Reserve and turn it over to the Roberts Bank port terminal for container shipping expansion. And a further 278 hectares of farmland could also be turned into an industrial wasteland.

One can only hope that the Tsawwassen First Nation members themselves will vote against this agreement for that reason, even though it is worth well over $120 million.

But if not, it is up to the British Columbia Legislature to vote to send the treaty back for renegotiation.

Unfortunately, what should be a positive development in B.C.’s long history of neglect of rightful aboriginal land claims is instead a looming disaster that would both destroy precious farmland and discourage future treaty settlements.

The reason is clear – the treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation is wrongly being used by the provincial and federal governments to remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve that could never be taken out otherwise.

Sunday, January 10, 2007
Band blasts treaty
By Jennifer Lang, Black Press

The Tsawwassen treaty initialled last month has a new opponent: the Sencot’en Alliance, a group that includes Semiahmoo First Nation in White Rock.

The alliance says the federal and provincial governments have not protected core lands claimed by its members in Delta.

“Our First Nations are completely opposed to the governments’ signing the final agreement for Tsawwassen since it appears it may infringe directly on our rights, particularly those of the Semiahmoo First Nation,” says a letter to Delta council that has also been sent to B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Steven Point, head of the B.C. Treaty Commission.

The Tsawwassen agreement is the first of its kind in the Lower Mainland and follows years of negotiations.

Proponents hail the deal as a significant milestone in an attempt to redress outstanding land claims with aboriginal groups.

The members of the Sencot’en Alliance have remained outside the negotiating process set up by the B.C. Treaty Commission to resolve land claims.

Instead, they say they have existing rights under the Douglas Treaty signed in 1852 that have never been recognized.

The alliance is now seeking legal advice.

Thursday, January 18
Native Land Treaty 13 Years in the Making
By Am Johal, ipsnews.net

The British Columbia provincial government in Canada is starting to make real headway on aboriginal land claims agreements after years of costly negotiations and inter-governmental deadlock.

The Tsawwassen First Nation’s final agreement was initialed on Dec. 8, 2006. This is the second final agreement initialed under the British Columbia (BC) treaty process — which is working with a total of some 57 native groups — and the first initialed in the Greater Vancouver Regional District, the urban centre of the province.

When the treaty comes into effect, the Tsawwassen will own their land outright and there will no longer be a designation for Indian reserves there. The land component is approximately 724 hectares.

Valerie Cross-Blackett, a Tsawwassen Band member who was involved in the negotiations, told IPS in an interview, “The agreement sets out the structure to address the key issues to support self-government and we are moving forward with the best deal that was possible.”

“We can’t be afraid of change, there are clear benefits in this agreement and it is an opportunity to move out of the colonialism of the past 130 years in a way that will improve both the health and wealth of our people. We are part of system that does not allow us to break the cycle and be self-sufficient — it was important to make changes and break that cycle in a long-term way,” she said.

Cross-Blackett said that a vote amongst the Tsawwassen to ratify the agreement will likely happen by this summer, before the deal proceeds for final approval to the provincial and federal governments. She also said that self-government will be an important step for the Tsawwassen people to break out the governance of the Indian Act.

The final agreement will set out law-making authorities that the Tsawwassen may exercise on their lands. It will also allow the Tsawwassen government to become a member of the Greater Vancouver Regional District and appoint a director to sit on the regional district board.

The Tsawwassen First Nations first entered the modern-day treaty process in December 1993.

In March 2004, the Tsawwassen First Nation, the province of British Columbia and the Canadian government signed an agreement in principle. Since that time, substantive progress has been made at the Tsawwassen treaty table and negotiators reached a tentative deal on a final agreement in October 2006, led by Tsawassen Chief Kim Baird.

Tony Penikett, an expert in land claims negotiations and recent author of a book on the issue, told IPS in an interview, “The initialing of the Tsawwassen Land Claims Agreement is good for all sorts of reasons. Earlier agreements have taken almost 100 years to sign, but the modern BC Treaty Commission process, which has been in place since the early nineties, is finally yielding results.”

“These agreements come with great complexity, issues of self-government and the need for approval by several levels of government which have differing agendas,” he noted.

Penikett added that intergovernmental issues, taxation and land use continue to stall the process. However, he believes that building long-term relationships of trust will eventually lead to meaningful reconciliation since the courts have already recognised the existence of aboriginal title.

Over the next several months, the Tsawwassen First Nation will vote to ratify the agreement. If they do so, then the BC legislature and the federal Parliament would proceed by giving their assent for the treaty to take effect.

Doug McArthur, a professor of public policy at Simon Fraser University, says that the treaty is incredibly significant because of its connection with a contemporary urban setting.

In an interview with IPS, McArthur said, “One of the significant characteristics of this treaty is that it was negotiated in a complex urban setting that involved complex land use planning and management issues. As well, with the Tsawwassen joining the Greater Vancouver Regional District, there will continue to be very complex governance work ahead.”

“The Tsawwassen should be given credit for their hard work and for taking the initiative in proposing very original arrangements in treaty making which are innovative, and which will probably have the potential to be modeled in other jurisdictions,” he said.

The Maa-Nulty First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia also signed a final agreement in December of 2006.

BC Premier Gordon Campbell said in a government press release, “I want to thank the Maa-Nulth First Nations for the dedication and commitment they have shown in working with us to complete a final agreement that will increase certainty for the region, strengthen their respective communities and help close the social and economic gap between First Nations and non-First Nations on Vancouver Island.”

“This final agreement will define the rights and title of the Maa-Nulth and provide them with the tools to become active participants in the economy,” Campbell said. “The benefits of this agreement will be felt throughout the region for generations to come.”

However, not everyone is happy with the agreement. The Sencot’en Alliance, which has stayed outside the negotiating process, arguing that they have existing rights under the 1852 Douglas Treaty, says the federal and provincial governments have not protected lands claimed by some of its members and that it is currently seeking legal advice.

“Our First Nations are completely opposed to the governments’ signing the final agreement for Tsawwassen since it appears it may infringe directly on our rights, particularly those of the Semiahmoo First Nation,” the alliance said a letter sent to Campbell, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Steven Point, head of the B.C. Treaty Commission. (END/2007)

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