A former G.P. Vanier grad and chief negotiator for the K’ómoks First Nation is receiving the highest honour the indigenous community bestows upon its own achievers.
Born in the Comox Valley, Mark Stevenson’s work in truth and justice for indigenous people is what made him one of the recipients for the Indspire Awards, to be held in Vancouver in early 2016.
“It’s very humbling to be a part of (the awards),” said Stevenson from his law office in Victoria. “From the aboriginal community, it’s the highest award that the community is involved in.”
The awards were created in 1993 in conjunction with the United Nation’s International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
They recognize indigenous professionals and youth who demonstrate outstanding career achievement.
With a background in constitutional law, Stevenson began working for the Privy Council in Ottawa in 1982, focusing on indigenous constitution matters.
He was the chief treaty negotiator with the Government of British Columbia for seven years and part of the team for the Charlottetown Accord.
He has also negotiated a wide variety of agreements on behalf of Indigenous People including oil, gas and mineral revenue sharing agreements, pipeline, forestry and impact benefit agreements linked with hydro mega-projects.
Stevenson is also the founding director and past president of the Indigenous Bar Association and the founding director and former chair of the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.
In 2009, he received the Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel designation from the Indigenous Bar Association for his work.
He noted coming from a Metis family originally from Alberta, aboriginal issues – whether it is Inuit, Indian or Metis – are a constant in his life.
“There is an unfairness of settlement, and unfairness in the rights of Aboriginal Peoples.
“I knew treaty negotiations were a good venue to resolve (some of the issues) and a useful tool.”
As a negotiator for the K’ómoks First Nation, Stevenson said the treaty is complicated due to an earlier land grant from the E&N Railway.
In 1875, the Railway Act expropriated a large portion of KFN traditional territory and the land grant was completed without acknowledgment of their right or title to tradition territory, and failed to compensate KFN.
A lot of the land was given away to the mining and logging industries, added Stevenson.
“(Because of that) there is now a shortage of land and timber owned by the Crown and water too because BC Hydro has a lot of it.
“This makes a very big difference (in negotiations) without water and timber.”
There are 14 categories for Indspire Awards ranging from arts to health and sports. For more information on the awards, visit indspire.ca.