Resource rush ‘leaves treaties behind’

Commissioners say oil and gas development in north have pushed complex discussions to the back burner

Sophie Pierre

Sophie Pierre

VICTORIA – The B.C. Treaty Commission issued its 21st annual report Tuesday, with a plea for federal and provincial governments not to abandon province-wide progress in a rush for resource development in the north.

While noting progress on several new treaties, chief commissioner Sophie Pierre said she is frustrated that the federal government has dragged its feet with studies, while the B.C. government has shifted focus to interim resource agreements as it pushes mining and gas development development in the north. Pierre warned that the rest of the province is being ignored, while First Nations have piled up debt for treaty talks that show little progress.

“There’s no need for more studies,” Pierre said. “Let’s just get it done.”

Asked if the independent treaty commission has outlived its usefulness, commissioner Dave Haggard was more blunt. Abandoning treaties means going back to court, and the Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that Canada and B.C. must negotiate settlements for aboriginal rights and title, he said.

He said he is dismayed by the rush for oil and gas development across the north.

“Go through Terrace and Prince Rupert and Smithers and see what the oil companies are doing up there today,” Haggard said. “It’s almost laughable when you see what they’re trying to do, the first one through the door so they can buy off another Indian.

“That’s not how it’s going to happen with First Nations in that part of the world. They’re going to sit down at the table and have a fair and just set of negotiations for occupying and use of the land and the resources that are there.”

Pierre said she supports resource sharing agreements for mines and forests, but they still leave communities under the control of the Indian Act. She singled out the long federal delay in deciding how salmon resources should be shared.

“How can you go seven years without a mandate on fish?” Pierre said. “For coastal First Nations, fish is like air.”

The Yale First Nation in the Fraser Canyon had its treaty approved by the House of Commons this spring, joining the Tsawwassen First Nation in the Lower Mainland and the Maa-Nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island with full self-government. The Tla’amin First Nation near Powell River has had its treaty ratified provincially.

Community votes on final agreements are near for In-SHUCK-ch communities at Harrison Lake, K’omoks on Vancouver Island, and the Tsimshian communities of Kitselas and Kitsumkalum on the North Coast.

Agreements in principle are nearing completion for Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations near Port Renfrew, the Homalco on Bute Inlet, and the Katzie in the Lower Mainland.

Also making progress on final agreements for land and cash are the Namgis Nation on northern Vancouver Island, Nazko First Nation near Quesnel, Northern Shuswap Tribal Council around Williams Lake, Te’Mexw Treaty Association on southern Vancouver Island and the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations near Tofino.

The full report and a webcast of Pierre’s presentation are available here.

 

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

Just Posted

An Island Health nurse prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy Island Health)
Health authority opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

Health authority anticipates more than 40,000 people will be immunized over the next month

Cumberland council is backing the business association again. File photo
Cumberland backs homeless veteran count

Briefs: Council continues support for business association

Courtenay Nissan’s Matthew Bourassa, Geoff Piper and Sean LaFleur join YANA’s Ashley Smith, Kelly Rusk and Lisa Wilcox for the 4x4x48 event to raise funds. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Courtenay Nissan eats and runs for YANA

Dealership realized non-profit groups need new ways to raise funds during COVID

Rev. Sulin Milne at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Comox is part of those helping distribute food to those in need within the town. Photo by Jim Peacock
Comox church serving the community with food through COVID-19

“We knew there were so many people who were facing economic challenges …”

Cole Moore with one of his sisters, Jasmin Moore. Photo supplied
Courtenay man looks to brain surgery for second chance

Cole Moore’s sister sets up GoFundMe to help father looking after brother

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Most Read