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K'ómoks First Nation completes important step toward treaty

MLA Don McRae (far left) witnesses mark Polak, Stewart Hardy and John Duncan sign the K
MLA Don McRae (far left) witnesses mark Polak, Stewart Hardy and John Duncan sign the K'ómoks First Nation agreement-in-principle.
— image credit: Erin Haluschak

Chief Ernie Hardy of the K'ómoks First Nation, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan and Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Mary Polak signed an agreement-in-principle Saturday under the B.C. Treaty Process.
The AIP lays a framework for final negotiations toward a legally binding treaty.
"The signing of the K'ómoks First Nation agreement-in-principle demonstrates that the B.C. treaty process is producing results," said Duncan, MP for Vancouver Island North.
"The K'ómoks First Nation agreement-in-principle is a key step toward a treaty, which will provide the basis for the K'ómoks First Nation to build a new future for its community, bringing change and new economic opportunities to the First Nation, as well as to the regions along the east coast of Vancouver Island," Duncan added.
"K'ómoks First Nation has a strong entrepreneurial spirit and has successful business operations on Vancouver Island," commented Polak. "A treaty will bring increased certainty on the land and direct economic benefits to the K'ómoks people and surrounding communities.
"I congratulate Chief Ernie Hardy and the members of the K'ómoks First Nation as they move toward a final agreement that will provide greater social and economic opportunities for this and future generations," Polak said.
"This is the first step towards a prosperous future for my people. It is an historic day for the K'ómoks Nation, I am proud to have been a part of this," said Chief Ernie Hardy.
The signing of the K'ómoks AIP officially signals the start of final agreement negotiations, a significant step toward a treaty.
The K'ómoks are descendants of Northern Coast Salish, Pentlatch and Kwak'wak'awa'kw people whose heritage, history and culture, including their language and spiritual practices, are tied to the lands, waters, and resources in this area.
The K'ómoks AIP includes provisions for approximately 2,043 hectares of land, and a capital transfer of $17.5 million once a final agreement is reached.
An AIP, the fourth of six phases in the six-step B.c. Treaty Commission negotiation process, addresses all the subject matter in the earlier framework agreement. The K'ómoks AIP, while not legally binding, forms the basis for final agreement negotiations.
A treaty will bring certainty with respect to K'ómoks First Nation's rights to use, own and manage lands and resources throughout its traditional territory.
It will provide the K'ómoks First Nation with modern governance tools to build relationships with other governments, including federal, provincial and local governments.
The following outlines the elements of an eventual final agreement as outlined in the AIP:
Land
The K'ómoks AIP land package consists of approximately 2,043 hectares of treaty settlement lands (including reserves). Under a treaty, the land will be held in fee simple by the K'ómoks
First Nation. Fee-simple ownership would give the K'ómoks First Nation the flexibility to manage their lands and generate long-term economic benefits.
Governance
Under a treaty, the K'ómoks First Nation would operate within the framework of the Constitution of Canada and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to the K'ómoks First Nation government.
The K'ómoks First Nation would have its own constitution that will provide for the structure of the K'ómoks First Nation government and include a process for K'ómoks members to challenge the validity of K'ómoks laws.
The First Nation's Constitution would also provide for a government that is democratically and financially accountable to the members (those people who are enrolled in, and will benefit from, the treaty).
With the exception of determining Indian status, after a transition period the Indian Act would no longer apply to the K'ómoks First Nation, their lands or members.
In addition to K'ómoks laws, federal and provincial law would also apply on treaty settlement lands, or K'ómoks Lands. The treaty would set out which law prevails if a K'ómoks law conflicts with a federal or provincial law.
Financial components
The K'ómoks First Nation would receive a capital transfer of $17.5 million with funding for programs and services, such as education, being provided through funding agreements.
Resource Harvesting Rights
The K'ómoks First Nation would have the right to harvest wildlife and migratory birds for food, social and ceremonial purposes within the K'ómoks Harvest Area. They will also have the right to gather plants for these purposes on provincial Crown lands within the K'ómoks Harvest Area. These rights would be subject to conservation measures, public health and public safety regulations.
The AIP can be viewed at www.comoxbandtreaty.ca.
For more information about the K'ómoks First Nation, and treaties in B.C. and Canada, visit these websites:
• www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca
• www.gov.bc.ca/arr
• www.comoxband.ca/index.php.
— Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation

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