B.C. Treaty Commission Chief Commissioner Celeste Haldane speaks during a news conference after the commission released its annual report, in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday September 20, 2017. The often bumpy and slow path toward treaty making in British Columbia has a new tool that can help glide over major obstacles and potentially help produce more than three dozen agreements near completion, says Haldane.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. treaty commissioner expects UNDRIP bill to speed treaty talks, more deals

The declaration was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 2007 after 20 years of debate

The often bumpy and slow path toward treaty making in British Columbia has a new tool that can help glide over major obstacles and potentially help produce more than three dozen agreements near completion, says Treaty Commissioner Celeste Haldane.

The B.C. government’s recent passage of Bill 41, legislation implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, should result in smoother and less cumbersome treaty negotiations, she said.

“I also think it’s complementary to the negotiation process because everything that’s envisioned in the declaration is available in the treaty process, and UNDRIP and Bill 41 provide a framework to move forward in B.C. and that’s whether in treaty talks or not,” said Haldane.

She said the B.C. legislation could provide the final impetus for reaching 37 treaty agreements with Indigenous nations who are in the final stage of talks with the provincial and federal governments.

Haldane said Indigenous nations from Vancouver Island, the northwest coast and the Interior have reached stage five in the six-stage process.

“I would say the treaty negotiations process will be complementary to the legislation in B.C., and why I say that is because in our process our mandate has changed to include the implementation of UNDRIP,” she said. “We are already seeing that happen at treaty tables where treaty negotiations are incorporating the declaration into negotiations and into their treaties.”

READ MORE: UN Indigenous rights becoming law in B.C., John Horgan tells chiefs

Haldane said she did not want to put time estimates on when the 37 nations will reach treaty settlements, but suggested once stage five is reached, final treaties are signed within two years.

B.C. introduced modern-day treaty making in the early 1990s and seven Indigenous Nations have reached treaty agreements since then. The Nisga’a Nation in B.C.’s northwest negotiated a treaty outside of the process.

Of B.C.’s more than 200 Indigenous nations, only about two dozen have signed treaties, with most dating back to the 1800s when the province was a British colony.

Last month, B.C. became the first province in Canada to pass legislation to implement the UN declaration, mandating the government to bring its laws and policies into harmony with the declaration’s principles.

The federal government said in its throne speech this week that it will also introduce legislation to implement UNDRIP.

“I see the legislation finally putting a place marker in B.C. to level the playing field when it comes to human rights issues,” Haldane said. “I don’t think we’re taking away from anyone. I think in B.C. we’re looking at ensuring there’s equity and equality between everyone.”

The declaration was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 2007 after 20 years of debate. Canada was originally one of four countries that voted against it. Among other things, the declaration says Indigenous Peoples have the right to self-determination, which means they can determine their political status and pursue economic, social and cultural development.

The declaration requires governments to obtain “free and informed consent” from Indigenous groups before approving any project affecting their lands or resources, but B.C. Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser said neither the legislation nor the declaration includes wording that grants a veto over resource development projects.

Haldane said the B.C. legislation brings all parties in treaty talks closer together.

“It’s not about a veto,” she said. “I believe it’s about moving to consent. It’s about having a seat at the table at the same time as everyone else when you are looking at decision making. It’s not something to be scared of.”

Haldane said recent moves by the federal and B.C. governments to reform the negotiation process have also improved the climate and flexibility to reach settlements.

A Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in B.C. announced last September features a B.C.-specific policy that Indigenous rights guaranteed in the Constitution cannot be modified, surrendered or extinguished when a treaty is signed.

Haldane said federal forgiveness of loans for Indigenous groups to fund treaty negotiations this year also eased the financial burden involved in negotiations.

Judith Sayers, president of the 14-member Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council on Vancouver Island, said provincial adoption of the bill is a step forward but many are waiting for the federal government to implement UNDRIP legislation.

Sayers says five of the tribal council’s 14 nations have signed modern treaties and the Ditidaht First Nation is in the final stage, but the eight other nations are not ready to enter treaty talks.

“I’m assuming as long as we’ve got the provincial government on side, that is going to make it easier,” she said. “The federal government says it’s going to pass legislation. They are all promising UNDRIP legislation, whether they get it through is another question.”

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A mature Garry oak fell onto Richmond Road on Oct. 13 near Camosun College Lansdowne campus. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Garry oak crashes down onto Richmond Road

Saanich responded to 59 tree-related calls

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich residents warned to watch livestock after bear kills llama

Officers with Conservation, Saanich police could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

The Kildonan mansion at 931 Foul Bay Rd. is part of the Oak Bay heritage registry. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Oak Bay declines Kildonan House permissive tax exemption

Council briefs include new transformer for Oak Bay Rec., strata policy

A 23-foot sailboat that broke free from its anchor was smashed against Cattle Point during the early October south-easterly storms. (Ron Geezin Photo)
Storm-smashed boat pulled off rocks of Cattle Point in Oak Bay

Sailboat a casualty of last week’s big storms

The Saanich Teachers’ Association is calling on the local provincial election candidates from all parties to commit to making schools healthier and safer for all. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich teachers call on election candidates for improved health, safety in schools

Increased funding, reduced class sizes among required changes, says association president

Advance polls are open from Oct. 15 to 21 with election day on Oct. 24. (Black Press Media file photo)
A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read