Treaty Principals sign accord to transform treaty negotiations in B.C.

The Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and the First Nations Summit have signed a Principals’ Accord on Transforming Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia on Dec. 1, 2018.

Grand Chief Edward John, Cheryl Casimer and Robert Phillips of the First Nations Summit; Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; and Scott Fraser, British Columbia’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, signed the accord on Saturday.

Through the accord, the principals recognize the need for a different approach to treaty negotiations to get results in a shorter timeframe that lead to prosperous, healthy and self-determining Indigenous communities.

The accord states that extinguishment and surrender of rights have no place in modern-day Crown-Indigenous relations or agreements. Instead, the federal and provincial governments and First Nations Summit have agreed that Aboriginal title and rights must be continued through treaties, as well as other types of agreements.

“The federal and provincial governments’ relationships with Indigenous Nations have been steeped in colonialism,” said Grand Chief Ed John. “Crown denial of Aboriginal title and rights of B.C. Indigenous nations and our distinct governments, laws, traditions and cultures has had a profound and lasting impact on Indigenous peoples and has undermined social and economic growth in this country. Crown denial of our titles and rights has also served as an obstacle to progress at many treaty negotiation tables. Through the Principals’ Accord and other policy initiatives, Canada and British Columbia have committed to forge a new relationship with Indigenous peoples based on recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights, rather than their extinguishment. In the Accord, the Principals also agree that section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, contains a full box of rights. We are encouraged by the commitments and processes set out in the Principals’ Accord which, once implemented, can further support the conclusion of treaties in a timely manner and help us turn the page on Crown denial of our titles and rights.”

The accord states that the principals respect the right of each First Nation to select its own pathway to exercising self-determination and whether it pursues reconciliation with the provincial and federal governments through treaties or other types of agreements and arrangements.

The accord affirms that treaty negotiations and implementation must reflect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

The Accord demonstrates the Principals’ commitment to transformative change beyond the recommendations set out in the 2016 Multilateral Engagement Process to Improve and Expedite Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia.