Treaty process criticized
As another First Nation signs a treaty, some are speaking out against B.C.'s processes
By Sandor Gyarmati, The Delta Optimist
August 24, 2012
Another B.C. First Nation is about to join Tsawwassen in a growing list getting a treaty, but not everyone is happy about the deals.
Last month, the Tla'amin First Nation (also known as Sliammon), north of Powell River, voted in favour of a proposed treaty deal with the federal and provincial governments. It's a deal that will provide 70 kilometres of oceanfront land, resource revenue sharing, cash and their own self-government.
The total value of the treaty is estimated to be over $100 million, according to the B.C. Treaty Commission, which applauded the outcome.
The Tla'amin joins a growing list to ratify a treaty under the B.C. treaty process. The Tsawwassen First Nation was the first among them. The TFN took a particular interest in what was taking place at Tla'amin, recently speaking out against a group of demonstrators who halted an earlier vote by blocking an entrance to a voting centre.
Supporting the leadership and demanding the right to vote for Tla'amin members, TFN chief Kim Baird pointed out how her own First Nation reached out to all eligible voters and informed them of their choices during the 2007 TFN ratification vote. She also addressed criticisms of the Tla'amin process that were leveled by external organizations, as well as a 2009 UN report criticizing the Tsawwassen process.
“It is easier to make allegations against process and throw stones than it is to mount real arguments about substantive elements on the agreements,” said Baird.
The UN report was completely uninformed and those who wrote it never consulted with her First Nation or provide an opportunity to respond, Baird said.
“We invite anyone who questions our engagement and consultation processes to pay us a visit and learn about the work we do,” she said.
Three years ago, TFN member Bertha Williams, an outspoken critic of the Tsawwassen treaty, and Arthur Manuel from the Neskonlith Indian Band, went to Geneva, Switzerland to file a protest with the UN about the B.C. treaty process.
Saying the TFN deal was a violation of her aboriginal rights, Williams said the treaty eliminated a longstanding aboriginal title in which land belonged to families.
The chair of the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination subsequently requested Canada respond to the complaints, including looking into allegations of “financial inducements” to conclude agreements, a reference to claims that TFN elders were paid off to ensure a positive vote. Williams and members of other B.C. First Nations made another presentation to the UN committee earlier this year. They were once again critical of the B.C. treaty process, noting, among other things, that First Nations people are not given any opportunity to negotiate issues regarding their territories unless they deal with the treaty commission. The submission also raised issues regarding the TFN vote.
The B.C. Treaty Commission on its website has made a special effort to highlight new native self-governments, as well as the TFN treaty. The commission also points to the TFN's pending residential and commercial growth plans.
“We have been the victims of industrialization and urban development on our front steps to the benefit of everyone but us,” Baird is quoted.
The commission also comments that in the next few years that will change, a reference to the TFN becoming a major player in the Lower Mainland.
The second election of the TFN's new self-government takes place this fall.
Another B.C. First Nation is about to join Tsawwassen in a growing list getting a treaty, but not everyone is happy about the deals. Last month, the Tla'amin First Nation (also known as Sliammon), north of Powell River, voted in favour of a proposed treaty deal with the federal and provincial governments. It's a deal that will provide 70 kilometres of oceanfront land, resource revenue sharing, cash and their own self-government.