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Lake Babine First Nation inks MOU with province, feds

The Lake Babine First Nation has signed a memorandum of understanding with Ottawa and Victoria designed to rights implementation and reconciliation negotiations.

The reconciliation agreement would implement Lake Babine Nation’s title and rights, and support economic and community benefits for the people of Lake Babine Nation and the surrounding region.

“This negotiation is about how to implement Lake Babine’s inherent rights in true partnership with the Crown,” said Gordon Alec, Chief of Lake Babine Nation, in a news release. “My nation is pleased to finally be negotiating towards an agreement with both B.C. and Canada that would honour our rights and title, help us heal from the legacies of colonialism and allow us to take a leadership role in growing the regional economy. This work is urgent and of the highest priority for Lake Babine.”

The signing comes just weeks after the Lake Babine First Nation broke off talks with the province over the agreement, saying it didn’t provide adequate immediate benefits in the form of transfers, forestry tenures, and increased revenue sharing on forestry operations in the Lake Babine territory.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) brings the federal government into advanced discussions between the province and Lake Babine Nation. It frames negotiations for a long-term agreement to implement Lake Babine Nation’s inherent title and rights, including the inherent right of self-government, as well as promote social and community well-being and regional economic growth.

“First Nations have been clear – they want transformative change now,” said Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations. “Together with Lake Babine, we are charting an innovative path forward that supports their community’s vision of greater self-determination and a sustainable, self-reliant community by enabling the implementation of self-government agreements as they are reached.”

That long-term agreement – called the Foundation Agreement – would start transforming the Crown-Lake Babine relationship by setting out goals the parties would implement as they are completed, over a period of up to 25 years.

Key topic areas under negotiation are lands, land and natural resource decision-making, forestry, Lake Babine governance, child and family well-being, education and language, and justice.

“The Government of Canada is an essential partner in our ongoing collaboration with Lake Babine Nation to reconcile title and rights, advance self-government and support economic prosperity for the people of Lake Babine,” said Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “With Lake Babine and all Indigenous nations throughout B.C., the Province is taking a different, partnership-based approach to how we design reconciliation agreements and treaties – an approach grounded in the recognition that there are many pathways to reconciliation that support self-determination and inherent rights.”

Lake Babine and the provincial and federal governments have expressed a shared interest in working together, building strong and resilient government-to-government relationships, and ensuring their work aligns with the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and case law, including the Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal title decision.

Lake Babine Nation is the third largest First Nation in British Columbia, with a total registered membership of approximately 2,440. The band’s main administrative office is located in Burns Lake, approximately 230 kilometres west of Prince George, and includes communities of Fort Babine, Old Fort, Tachet, Donald’s Landing/Pinkut.

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