LETTER: Nisga’a Nation not a ‘parallel state’

Nisga'a Lisims President Mitchell Stevens responds to criticism of benefits from self-government by treaty

Mitchell Stevens

Mitchell Stevens

This in response to Tom Fletcher’s column (Nisga’a proving their critics wrong, B.C. Views, Dec. 3) and a recent letter to the editor from Ron Johnson (Nisga’a parallel state poses tough questions).

First, the Nisga’a Nation is not a “parallel state.” As a result of our treaty, we are very much a part of Canada, a fact about which many Nisga’a citizens are extremely proud. In the manner set out in the Nisga’a Treaty, federal and provincial laws apply to Nisga’a Nation, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to Nisga’a government, Nisga’a citizens pay taxes, and Nisga’a citizens continue to be entitled to all the rights and benefits of other Canadian citizens.

If anything, our treaty removed the barriers of the Indian Act that obstructed our full participation in Canadian society. We take exception to being separated in any way from Canada.

Second, Johnson’s comment that Nisga’a citizens have become a “landed gentry” is a completely inaccurate portrayal of the state of Nisga’a society. It suggests that through the recognition of our aboriginal title under the Nisga’a Treaty, Nisga’a Nation has somehow magically transformed its economic conditions to that of a 19th century aristocrat living off rents.

In fact we were not allowed to participate in the industrial revolution, and we need to catch up to the rest of Canada. As tax-paying Canadians, we at Nisga’a Nation still have to earn our daily bread, attract investment to our area and carefully plan and build for the future, just like everyone else in Canada.

This is why we support the development of the liquefied natural gas industry in B.C., are seeking to attract investment, and possibly operate an LNG facility on Nisga’a lands. As we have indicated to the government of B.C. at recent joint press conferences, our efforts at Nisga’a Nation provide LNG proponents project certainty to support the establishment of the LNG industry in B.C. generally.

Nisga’a Nation strives for sustainable prosperity and self-reliance. We appreciate how Fletcher has kept an open mind to allow his views on the Nisga’a Treaty to evolve. We are optimistic that eventually more people will understand that we want what all citizens of B.C. want – an improved quality of life.

H. Mitchell Stevens

President, Nisga’a Lisims Government

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