Q. What are treaties?
Treaties are constitutionally protected, government-to-government agreements, producing mutually binding obligations. Treaties implement, identify and define a wide range of rights and obligations, including existing and future interests in land and sea resources as well as authorities of governments, regulatory processes, amending processes, dispute resolution, fiscal relations and financial compensation.
Q. Why are treaties only now being negotiated?
Before Canada was a country Britain recognized that aboriginal people living here had title to land: the Royal Proclamation of 1763 declared that only the British Crown could acquire land from First Nations, and that was typically done through treaties. In most parts of Canada, the British Crown established treaties with First Nations before Confederation. The new Dominion of Canada continued this policy of making treaties before the west was opened for settlement, but in BC, this process was never completed.
When BC joined Confederation in 1871, only 14 treaties on Vancouver Island had been signed, and aboriginal title to the rest of the province was left unresolved. It wasn't until 1970 that Canada's aboriginal peoples were able to pursue aboriginal rights in the Supreme Court of Canada. Most First Nations had to wait until 1993 to pursue their aboriginal rights through the BC treaty process.
Q. What is being negotiated?
Each party (Hupacasath, Canada, British Columbia) may introduce any topic to negotiations that it feels are significant to the new relationship. Issues being negotiated are:
- Land, law-making authority, selection and access
- Water and water resources
- Forestry and forest resources
- Fisheries and marine resources
- Language, heritage and culture
- Mining and subsurface resources
- Wildlife and migratory birds
- Environmental Management
- Fiscal arrangements
- General provisions
Q. Is private land being negotiated? Will Alberni Valley residents lose their home?
No, private property (fee simple) owners will not lose their homes to settle a treaty. However, if a piece of private land is deemed important to negotiations, Hupacasath First Nation and the Federal and Provincial governments may attempt to purchase that property on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis. It is important to understand that in most cases it will be Crown land and resources transferred under treaties.
Q. What's the difference between Aboriginal Title and Crown Title?
In 1997 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that aboriginal title is a right to the land itself, not just to the right to fish, hunt and gather. Common law and provincial statutes, as well as the Canadian Constitution protect this title. Aboriginal title is a communal right; no single individual can hold aboriginal title. Crown title means the federal or provincial interest in land.
Q. What does aboriginal self-governance mean?
In 1995 the federal government took on a new approach to negotiating arrangements with aboriginal people and their right to self-government. This new approach recognizes the importance of giving aboriginal communities legitimate tools to have greater control over their lives. This means Hupacasath First Nation can negotiate a variety of matters, including: government structure, land management, child welfare, health care, education, housing and economic development. These self-government arrangements may be based on historical, cultural, political and economic circumstances.
Q. Who pays for the treaty negotiations?
Each party is responsible for their negotiation costs. Settlement costs are jointly borne by the federal and provincial parties, with the Federal government paying 72% and the Provincial government paying 28%. It is worth noting that a study conducted by Price Waterhouse calculated that the cost of not settling treaties in BC to be $1 Billion in lost investment and 1,500 jobs in the forestry and mining sectors alone.
Information Source: BC Treaty Commission (www.bctreaty.net)