Tough issues remain in K’ómoks First Nation treaty negotiations

The chief negotiator in treaty negotiations for the K’ómoks First Nation expects a land and cash offer from senior governments this calendar year.

Once that happens, “everything else will speed up,” says Mark Stevenson.

But some tough issues remain, including a large forestry tenure.

“We have about 12,000 acres of land under negotiation,” he said. “We expect that most, if not all of that, will be transferred.”

The large chunks of land lie between the two highways, and between Royston and Union Bay.

“We have to deal with third party interests on some of the Crown land, and that’s taking time,” Stevenson said.

Another issue is fisheries.

“That’s probably the toughest one. We got a fish offer this year, and we completely rejected it.”

The treaty negotiation process provides a framework for Canada, B.C. and First Nations to work towards a common goal of reconciliation and building a new relationship. The K’ómoks treaty table is in Stage 5 Final Agreement of the process. The sixth and final stage is treaty implementation.

A major hurdle was cleared in 2012 when the critical Agreement-in-Principle (Stage 4) was reached. At the time, Goose Spit was a contentious stumbling block.

“We have agreed to transfer the entire Goose Spit to K’ómoks,” Stevenson said. “At one point it was just the tip.”

On June 25, 2019, Stevenson said the KFN signed off on a ‘Stage five Revitalization Agreement,’ which will help fast-track negotiations.

Another significant development occurred when the federal government forgave the negotiating loan.

“It was becoming a bit of a burden,” Stevenson said. “That was what we call a ‘winning condition’.”

The KFN also negotiated something called ‘recognition and renewal.’

“In the past, treaties were final agreements,” Stevenson said. “In a lot of ways, they attempted to extinguish rights that weren’t set out in the treaty…They’ve agreed that there’s no extinguishment in the treaty.”

Another key aspect is periodic renewal, which enables the band to renew certain elements of the treaty every 10 years. This allows for unforeseen circumstances, or changes to laws and policies, for example.

“We also look at the socioeconomic indicators, and measure whether or not those are improving as a result of the treaty,” Stevenson said. “I see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

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