The Shuswap Tribal Nation Council is calling for a complete overhaul of the treaty process, following a second “no” vote on a federal and provincial offer to settle land claims within the process established by the BC Treaty Commission.
In a June 23 press release, the council charges that the process is designed with pre-determined outcomes, with funding formulas and land formulas that are out of date and are completely inadequate to address outstanding land claims within the province.
The province agrees there are problems and is working on improving relations with First Nations and the treaty process.
The bands with the Shuswap Tribal Nation Council are not participants in the BC Treaty process and have consistently opposed the process for resolving land claims.
“The process does not come into line with the United Nations Rights of Indigenous People,” says Kukpi7 Wayne Christian, tribal chief of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, who notes the BC treaty process follows a federal and provincial policy of extinguishment. “Once the agreement is signed, they extinguish our rights. They’re basically buying up land in real estate transactions. They get consent of people to buy the lands that have been in our hands for thousands of years.”
Christian also rails against the fact that Indigenous bands rather than nations are able to negotiate land claims, even when the territory they are claiming belongs to another nation.
He says the process “undermines the Nationhood of all Indigenous peoples across Canada and has caused mistrust, resentment, anger and used valuable resources for court challenges.”
Christian claims statements made publicly by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Scott Fraser, provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, on the importance of acknowledging Indigenous rights are not in tune with what is happening at the bureaucratic level.
But in a July 2017 letter to Minister Scott Fraser, then newly minted Premier John Horgan said the province is committed to creating a “true, lasting reconciliation with First Nations” and set out several tasks for the ministry.
“Modern treaties are one of the tools that can be considered to support reconciliation with Indigenous communities, but there is no question that the overall treaty process in B.C. needs to be revitalized to better reflect our growing and evolving relationship with First Nations,” said Fraser in an email statement. “The Premier has given us a mandate to work in partnership with First Nations to transform the treaty process so it respects case law and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our government is working with the federal government and Indigenous partners to do that. Our goal is to found treaties on lasting government-to-government relationships that are flexible, and able to adapt to changing circumstances over time – as well as recognizing the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples.”
Chief Christian says the Secwepemc people have never surrendered or sold their traditional territories and were very clear about how they would interact with Canada – nation to nation, in a spirit of “reciprocal accountability.”
He refers to a 1910 “Memorial from the Interior Chiefs” to Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, which states, “We will share equally in everything – half and half – in land, water and timber, etc. What is ours will be theirs, and what is theirs will be ours. We will help each other to be great and good.”
Fraser acknowledges there is no single path to reconciliation and that it is important for everyone to respect the right of each nation to choose their own path.
“We recognize that there may be other ways to implement rights other than through treaties – and we are open to exploring those,” Fraser says. “We are also exploring renewed approaches to shared decision-making, and collaborative stewardship of our shared natural resources, as well as new approaches to revenue-sharing, and other measures to support self-determination and self-governance.”
Other areas in which Horgan called for “substantive progress” include: support for Indigenous communities seeking to revitalize connections to their languages and provide reliable, dedicated funding and support for friendship centres and, with the minister of finance, negotiate with First Nations leadership and communities around expanding opportunities for their share of B.C.’s gaming industry.”
In an email statement of June. 29, the federal government maintains it is working in a spirit of collaboration and renewal with Indigenous communities to advance reconciliation in a number of ways.
“This includes negotiating comprehensive treaties through the BC treaty process as well as exploring new and incremental ways of achieving reconciliation,” reads the release which addresses one of Chief Christian’s specific concerns. “The concept of extinguishment of rights is no longer part of our dialogue at any of these tables.”