- Category: news
- Created: Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:00
- Published: Wednesday, 09 October 2013 14:00
- Written by Administrator 3
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BY DIRK MEISSNER, THE CANADIAN PRESS
VICTORIA — Short-term goals and endless studies by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and Christy Clark’s Liberals have created bureaucratic barriers to negotiating lasting treaty settlements with B.C.’s First Nations, says the province’s chief treaty commissioner.
Sophie Pierre said Tuesday the federal and B.C. governments appear more interested in avoiding or delaying treaty settlements instead of supporting negotiations that would result in land-claims settlements and self-government for First Nations.
At a news conference releasing the treaty commission’s annual report, “Pathway to Change,” Pierre said governments should stop considering treaty negotiations as a government program for aboriginals and start serious talks.
After 21 years of treaty negotiations, just two treaties have been finalized, while 18 others are at the final agreement or advanced agreement-in-principle stages.
There are more than 200 First Nations in B.C. and less than 20 have treaties, with the majority of those settlements dating back to the mid-1800s when the province was a British colony.
Pierre said First Nations are looking for solid direction from the federal government that it is committed to negotiating treaties in B.C. She said the statement of direction on behalf of the government must go beyond the letter the treaty commission received from the Harper government this year saying Ottawa considers treaties good for the economy.
“Our message is we need to have this oversight, not just one letter coming from the prime minister,” she said. “If we can get the focus of the federal government to look at their mandates, to look at what’s holding up this process and actually get the push, the direction from the prime minister’s office that says, ‘yes, this is a priority, we need to get it done.’”
“If you don’t have that, it just spins its wheels like it’s always done,” said Pierre.
She said First Nations want the prime minister’s office to declare “this is good for Canada.”
Instead treaty talks are bogged down over bureaucratic federal concerns about dividing salmon resources with First Nations and federal studies to review the treaty process, Pierre said.
The last time Ottawa, B.C. and the First Nations formally met to discuss treaty issues was in May 2012, she said.
Treaty commissioner Dave Haggard, a former B.C. union leader, said governments need to take the negotiating process more seriously because the alternative involves endless, costly court battles.
“What can British Columbians do about that?” he said. “I say you can talk to your MP’s, talk to your MLA’s and say we support First Nations getting a fair and just settlement on the land question in this province,” he said.