Lake Babine Nation, Canada and the Province of British Columbia have signed a reconciliation agreement that sets the foundation to implement and recognize Lake Babine Nation rights and title over the next 20 years.
“For the first time in our history, Lake Babine Nation and the governments of B.C. and Canada are walking together,” said Chief Gordon Alec of Lake Babine Nation. “The foundation agreement provides real immediate benefits today for our Nation and its members. It also outlines how we will work together to fully enact Aboriginal rights and title. I’m thankful to the chiefs before me who have gotten us here. Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, present and future generations of Lake Babine Nation members will reach new heights that the foundation agreement enables.”
Alec, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, joined together by videoconference to sign the agreement.
“The foundation agreement with Lake Babine Nation is ambitious, comprehensive and puts us all on a path to reconciliation and a better future,” said Premier John Horgan. “Guided by the principles in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, it is an exciting example of the new and innovative agreements B.C. is creating in collaboration with First Nations and the federal government. Together, we’re finding solutions that are more flexible and better address the vision First Nations have for their own futures.”
The agreement provides immediate land and financial benefits totalling approximately $200 million, while setting the stage to negotiate further agreements, such as self-government and Aboriginal title. It provides a roadmap for how Lake Babine Nation and the provincial and federal governments will work together to implement Lake Babine self-governance, boost economic development, collaborate on major land and resource decisions and promote community health and well-being. It sets out a series of commitments, with both early actions and areas for longer-term work, that build on each other in stages.
The agreement provides a 20-year framework.
“This agreement advances reconciliation, renews our relationship and breaks down colonial structures. Our work to renew and transform our relationship with Lake Babine Nation based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership helps to build a fairer Canada,” Bennett said. “This agreement charts the path forward to implement Lake Babine Nation’s vision of self-determination and promote social and community well-being, regional economic growth and implementation of rights and title. At this time, when the pandemic has magnified systemic issues and long-standing inequities, today’s signing is a welcome example of acknowledging the progress that can be made in closing those gaps by furthering self-determination.”
“We are breaking new ground with this agreement, moving beyond the denial of Indigenous rights into a new government-to-government relationship that fosters transformative change in our relationship with Lake Babine Nation, makes a real difference on the ground for Lake Babine members and brings stability and prosperity to everyone in the region,” Fraser said. “Our focus is to build on the positive relationships Lake Babine Nation has developed with neighbouring communities and the business and natural resource sectors, so we can all work together in a sustainable way to grow the regional economy and create jobs.”
The agreement will increase Lake Babine Nation’s participation in the forest sector and provide an economic boost for the entire region. Funding will also help support and strengthen social program delivery in areas such as children and family services, education and language, and justice programs. This reconciliation agreement advances self-determination and self-government by working toward Lake Babine Nation assuming direct control and responsibility for service delivery jurisdiction.
- The foundation agreement includes an initial set of benefits valued at about $200 million: $43 million in funding and 20,000 hectares of land valued at approximately $150 million.
- The agreement commits the parties to further negotiations to recognize and implement Lake Babine Nation rights, including self-determination and Aboriginal title.
- Lake Babine Nation is comprised of five communities, Old Fort, Tachet, Fort Babine, Woyenne, and Donald’s Landing, and over 2,500 citizens.