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.
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
- Stage 5: Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty
- Stage 6: Implementation of the Treaty
What stage is the Tlowitsis First Nation at in the treaty process?
We’re currently in Stage 4, which is where we negotiate an “Agreement in Principle” or AIP with BC and Canada.
What is an “Agreement in Principle” around the treaty?
The Agreement in Principle (AIP) contains the essential points of agreement among the parties, and includes an initial ‘land and cash’ proposal from Canada and BC. Once we have an AIP we start negotiations on outstanding matters including fisheries, fiscal transfer, and in depth lands analysis. Our timeline in negotiations sees us reaching an AIP in the spring of 2018.
It is important to remember that an Agreement in Principle is not a legally binding document. Rather, it is an agreement amongst the Parties that we have confidence and enough good faith in each other to go forward and finalize the negotiations for a treaty.
What’s coming up?
In the spring of 2019, we hope to be able to come to agreement with Canada and BC on an Agreement in Principle that will form the basis of a treaty. Our strategy at the negotiation table is to focus on priority lands, and land and cash proposals from Canada and BC, that will give us enough comfort to proceed to Stage 5 negotiations. Tlowitsis, Canada and BC will continue to negotiate around all the lands identified by Tlowitsis for treaty settlement.
Once the Parties agree on an Agreement in Principle, we can have those lands protected from further encroachments, purchase or development, while we continue negotiations toward a treaty.
What happens in Stage 5 (the final stage of treaty negotiations)?
In Stage 5, we will be negotiating some of the most important pieces of the treaty: fiscal relations, fisheries, resource revenue sharing, access to timber resources, and water. Technical and legal issues are resolved at this stage and an Implementation Plan is negotiated as the blueprint for the governments to make sure the treaty works. A treaty is a unique constitutional instrument to be signed and formally ratified at the conclusion of Stage 5.
Also during Stage 5 are opportunities to negotiate ‘Incremental Treaty Agreements,’ which give the Tlowitsis early access to lands (in fee simple) which will be converted to Treaty Settlement Lands once a treaty is finalized. These incremental agreements are designed to provide economic and other benefits to First Nations ahead of treaty and to demonstrate commitment to the new relationship treaties are about.
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.