Garry Reece of Lax Kw'alaams First Nation presents cedar bark hat to Premier Christy Clark as Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad looks on at revenue sharing ceremony at the B.C. legislature April 9. It was the latest of a long series of B.C. resource revenue agreements

Ottawa follows B.C.’s treaty ‘stepping stones’

Incremental and resource agreements a way forward on stalled aboriginal title talks, federal government comes on board

VICTORIA – The federal government has responded to the strengthening of aboriginal title in B.C. by following the province’s lead and focusing on resource use agreements rather than full-scale treaties that have been slow and expensive to negotiate.

A shift in federal policy was announced Monday by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt, endorsing non-treaty and incremental treaty agreements such as B.C. has focused on in recent years.

Valcourt also appointed Vancouver lawyer Doug Eyford as a special advisor, to follow up on his advice to Ottawa last fall on developing West Coast oil and gas export projects.

B.C. Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad welcomed the change in federal approach, describing resource agreements as “stepping stones to reconciliation.

“We had been hoping the federal government would come to the table with things like our non-treaty agreements and our incremental approach to treaty for quite a few years,” Rustad said in an interview Tuesday. “That has been something they’ve resisted, but now they’re going to come to the table with that, and we welcome that.”

B.C. recently signed its first liquefied natural gas resource sharing agreement for facilities proposed near Prince Rupert. On July 11, B.C. reached its 150th forest resource sharing agreement with the Seabird Island Band in the Fraser Valley, and has developed similar revenue deals for mining and hydroelectric projects.

Ottawa is also promising to restart fisheries talks that have been on hold since the Cohen Commission reported in 2012 on the health of Fraser River sockeye salmon runs. The B.C. Treaty Commission has protested for years that Ottawa’s foot-dragging has contributed to the slow pace of talks, with only four treaties completed since the three-way structure was set up in 1992.

Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre has warned of over-emphasis on resource agreements, with Ottawa and B.C. focused on northern B.C. pipeline and energy projects. Rustad said there are resource projects all over the province that can benefit, adding there will be new agreements announced in the near future.

Valcourt’s announcement mirrors the main recommendations of Eyford’s report last fall. It called for “targeted efforts to build effective relationships, including refinements to Canada’s current approach to consultation and engagement, to explore mutually beneficial initiatives that support reconciliation, and to encourage aboriginal communities to resolve shared territory issues.”

Rustad said Ottawa is moving on Eyford’s recommendations, not in response to the landmark aboriginal title case decided in favour of the Tsilhqot’in Nation in June. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld Tsilhqot’in title to the Nemiah Valley west of Williams Lake, striking down provincial logging permits issued without aboriginal consent.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

From baseball stars to forest fires: Southeast Fire Centre water bomber has an interesting past

Tanker 489 is stationed in Castlegar this year, but in the 1960s it belonged to the L.A. Dodgers.

Sculpture to offer point of beauty and unity at rivers’ junction in Grand Forks

Artist David Seven Deers spent 19 months sculpting Shining Raven Woman

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

Greenwood Museum debuts new Chinese laundry exhibit

The new exhibit reflects a staple business of the city from more than 100 years ago

Spring flooding financial relief available for affected residents

The provincial funds are for those affected by flooding in May and early June

B.C. identifies 20 new COVID-19 cases, travellers specified in count

Pandemic total 3,028 cases, 51 people from outside Canada

Survey, hotline launched amid probe into racist blood-alcohol guessing game at B.C. hospital

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has been appointed to lead an investigation by Health Minister Adrian Dix

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

B.C. appeals judge’s decision to leave three clubhouses in Hells Angels hands

The province has filed two notices of appeal related to the B.C. Supreme Court decision

Conservation officers relocate Spirit bear known to roam northwestern B.C.

Bear roamed valley north of Terrace for many years

B.C. premier applauds call to decriminalize drug possession

Police shouldn’t struggle with health issues, Horgan says

Most Read