What is a treaty?
Treaties are constitutionally protected, government-to-government agreements that identify, define and implement a range of rights and obligations. They create long-term, mutually binding commitments between First Nations and the governments of Canada and BC. Treaties constitutionally entrench reconciliation between First Nations, Canada and British Columbia.
Treaties negotiated through the BC treaty negotiations process are tripartite, meaning there are three Parties to the negotiations, the governments of Canada, British Columbia, and a First Nation. A treaty results in the establishment of a new relationship based on mutual trust, respect, understanding and certainty.
Treaties signed with First Nations in Canada between 1701 and 1923 are commonly referred to as historic treaties. In BC the only historic treaties are the 14 Douglas treaties, signed with First Nations on Vancouver Island, and Treaty 8, covering a portion of northeastern BC. Treaties signed today are called modern treaties, and cover where there are no historic treaties, and can also deal with matters not addressed in historic treaties.
Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations for British Columbia
A new Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in BC was agreed to by BC, Canada and BC First Nations participating in the BC treaty process, including the Tlowitsis Nation. This policy has the promise to bring about fundamental changes to treaty negotiations and the reconciliation of Tlowitsis sovereignty with the asserted sovereignty of the Crown (Canada and BC).
These changes are because of the hard work of Indigenous peoples in this province, country and around the world. In Canada we have made changes to how our rights are recognized in the laws of Canada through successive wins in the Supreme Court (Tsilqot’in for example). We have influenced how the people of Canada understand our rights through political pressure and activism over many years.
Think of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action. It took years, but we did it, and the Calls to Action state that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will be the guiding document for a new relationship. Here is a link to the Calls to Action, one of the Foundation Documents for Tlowitsis treaty negotiations.
Guiding all treaty negotiations are the principles agreed upon in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (the Declaration). The Declaration is the result of negotiations by the world’s Indigenous peoples, which began in 1982. In 2007, when the Declaration was adopted 144 states voted in favour, four voted against and 11 abstained.
The four countries that voted against the Declaration in 2007 were Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The one thing those four countries have in common is that the Indigenous peoples had become a minority in their homelands. Those four countries were most opposed to the promise of recognizing rights to the economic and other benefits from the land. In particular they did not approve of the language of ‘free, prior and informed consent’ before resource development could take place on Indigenous lands.
Self-determination was also a common concern amongst those four nations. Those four nations have all now given their support for the Declaration. The understanding is that the rights and titles of the Indigenous peoples will be negotiated in a way that ‘reconciles’ the competing rights. Self-determination is recognized as a human right in international law.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines reconciliation like this. “Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen there has to be awareness of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behavior.”
What are the stages of treaty negotiations in BC?
There are six stages in the treaty process:
- Stage 1: Statement of Intent to Negotiate
- Stage 2: Readiness To Negotiate
- Stage 3: Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement
- Stage 4: Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle and Memorandum of Understanding
- Stage 5: Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty
- Stage 6: Implementation of the Treaty
Memorandum of Understanding (2020) – Entering Stage 5 of Negotiations
With the support of the BC Treaty Commission, the Tlowitsis have reached an agreement or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with BC and Canada, to enter directly into Stage 5 (the final stage) of treaty negotiations. The MOU makes it possible for us to move forward to the development of a comprehensive Stage 5 treaty package in the coming year, which Tlowitsis citizens will have the opportunity to learn about and vote on.
What are the Tlowitsis Nation, BC and Canada negotiating in Stage 5?
The Foundation Documents listed below, the MOU, and the treaty process will guide Stage 5 negotiations. We’ll be discussing the following issues in Stage 5:
- Lands, including stewardship and shared decision making on resource management.
- Government powers and lawmaking authorities.
- Child welfare, restorative justice, and cultural heritage protection.
- Fisheries, aquaculture, commercial and food fisheries.
- New funding relationship with Canada.
- Resource revenue sharing.
- Taxation including “Indian” tax exemption.
- Other matters the Parties agree upon.
We are also negotiating a Fisheries Reconciliation Agreement outside of the treaty with five of our Kwakwaka’wakw neighbours to address aquaculture, community and commercial fisheries interests.
Foundation documents guiding negotiations
- the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, dated March 2008
- the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action, dated December 2015;
- the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, dated July 14, 2017;
- the Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, dated May 22, 2018;
- the Principals’ Accord on Transforming Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, dated December 1, 2018;
- the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, Endorsed by the Principals on September 4, 2019
- the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, SBC 2019, c 44; and
- the rolling draft Tlowitsis AIP, as of January 14, 2020.
You can click on the red text above to open and read the above documents.
Do you have questions that haven’t been answered here?
Send us an email to Lead Negotiator Nikki Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions.