What is a Treaty?
A treaty is a long-term agreement between a First Nation and the Canadian and BC governments. It is designed to lay out how these groups will relate to one another. Each treaty will lay out the rights and obligations of the government and the First Nation. The treaties that are being negotiated right now are called modern treaties. Treaties that were negotiated before 1923 are called historic treaties.
Are All Treaties the Same?
No, each treaty is unique to that First Nation. LBN's treaty will be unique to the needs of LBN. Also, LBN negotiators are able to learn from any problems that groups who have already signed a treaty are having. We talk to groups like the Nisga'a and research agreements from other parts of Canada to make sure that we are learning from what others have done that has worked well or has caused them problems in the long run. The LBN treaty will be about what LBN needs and wants, not what other groups have done.
What are Aboriginal Rights and Treaty Rights?
Aboriginal rights are practices, traditions, and customs that distinguish the culture of each First Nation and were practiced before Europeans arrived. Aboriginal Title is an aboriginal property right to lands in their traditional territory. This is not a right to exclusive occupation. In order for that to be the case the area must have been exclusively occupied in 1846. These rights are protected in the Canadian Constitution.
Treaty Rights are those rights that are set out once a treaty is signed. These rights can vary between treaties, but once the treaties are signed they are also protected by the Canadian Constitution.
What is the difference between Crown title and Aboriginal title?
Crown title refers to the interest of the BC and Canadian governments in the land. Most Crown land in BC is under the control of the BC government. The fact that aboriginal title is not extinguished in the BC usually means that there is a burden on Crown land and the government has to discuss any actions it wants to take on the land with the relevant First Nation. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that aboriginal title remains intact where there are no treaties and that it is an interest in the land itself, not just in the right to use the land for hunting, trapping, fishing, etc. However, aboriginal title is a communal right so an individual cannot hold aboriginal title.
What are Treaty Core Lands?
Treaty Core Lands are the areas of the territory that LBN will own outright after treaty. LBN will have authority to control zoning, development, services, and all the other things that a government controls on its territory. Treaty Core Lands will be made up of only a percentage of the whole traditional territory. We do not yet know how much area that will be. It is important to note that LBN does not give up all of its rights to the rest of the territory and there will be opportunities for joint management agreements and consultation on developments off Core Lands as well.
What is Self-Government?
The government of Canada has recognized First Nations inherent right to manage their own affairs. There is no set way that self-government has to be designed, meaning that each First Nation can create their own structure as long as it is approved by all three parties. Self-government often involves issues like law making authority, education, property rights, social services, and housing as well as any others that are important to the Nation and are agreed to by all three parties.
What is Being Negotiated?
In this process any of the three parties can bring forward any issue that they feel is important for negotiations. This means that each treaty will be unique, although there will be many topics that appear in all of them. Some of these might be governance issues, lands and resources issues, or cash settlements.
Will Treaty Help First Nations Towards Better Economic Opportunities?
Because a concluded treaty provides First Nations with more control over their own affairs, it will be much easier to develop businesses under treaty than under the Indian Act. Studies have shown that economic success is closely linked with the ability to make important decisions and those that have control of their own affairs have a much better economic success rate. What this means is that under treaty there will be different opportunities for job creation, training, and business.
Won't Treaty Only Benefit Members Living on the Territory?
Treaty will apply to all members of the Nation. Because the Nation’s government represents all of the members, not just those living on the territory, they have a responsibility to make sure that some of the benefits from treaty flow to the people living off the territory as well. A good example of this is that the Nisga’a have several urban locals to support the members living away from the territory. A similar approach may be taken but how it is addressed may vary depending on the situation.
How Much Land is up for Negotiation?
The amount of land that is up for negotiation is not set. The government is stating that it is a very small amount but various Frist Nations groups are negotiating for larger portions of their traditional territory. When a treaty is signed only a percentage of the traditional territory will become Core Lands. This does not meant that LBN will give up all of its rights to the rest of the territory. There will be other types of agreements, like co-management, and the duty of the Crown to consult First Nations about decisions that may affect their interests will remain. LBN will still have some say over what happens on the rest of the territory.
Why is Treaty Taking so Long?
Treaty takes a long time for several reasons. One is that there are so many different problems that have to be talked about. LBN negotiators have to make sure that they have enough information about each the topics in the chapters to make good decisions. This means that there has to be lots of research done and we have to hire experts to make sure that things are done right. The other part is that the government is not offering very good terms right now. There are parts of the treaty that LBN and BC or Canada can’t agree on. That means there has to be more discussions and research and they have to go back to their governments and see if they are allowed to accept what LBN wants. All of this takes a lot of time and we don’t want to rush into the treaty and end up with a bad deal because we did not do our homework.
How Will Membership be Determined Under the Treaty?
Membership under treaty is not based on blood quantum and is not decided by the government. The way that membership is determined is built right into the treaty. There is a chapter called the Eligibility and Enrollment chapter. In this chapter it will be laid out who will be allowed to vote on the treaty and who will get to share in the benefits of the treaty. Right now the LBN Eligibility and Enrollment Chapter states that a person will be considered a member if they are of LBN ancestry, were adopted by an LBN family, or are accepted by LBN as a member and can show an attachment and involvement in the community.
We Have a Barricade Treaty, Why do We Need Another Treaty?
The barricade treaty is specifically about fishing and was made as compensation for the destruction of the fish weirs on the Babine River. The barricade treaty does not deal with things like mining and forestry, health care, education, and social housing. The treaty being negotiated right now will deal with all of these things. Without a new treaty it will be harder for LBN to control how decisions about things like health care, education, and natural resources are made because there is no certain agreement on how these issues will be discussed. In a nutshell, the treaty being negotiated now is going to be really broad where the barricade treaty was quite narrow.
Will there be Taxes after Treaty is signed?
There is a chapter in the treaty on taxes and taxation. This chapter is not written yet. As things stand, the government wants the tax exemption to end in two stages, 8 years and 12 years after the treaty is signed. LBN negotiators want to design the chapter so that the tax exemption stays in place until LBN is ready to take over taxing its membership on LBN lands. This chapter will give the LBN government the ability to apply taxes on its territory. This does not mean that is has to or that it will. It only gives LBN that option.
Why is Treaty Using all of the Band Money?
Treaty does not use band money. The money that treaty uses comes from the British Columbia Treaty Commission. This money is only for treaty negotiations and can’t be used by the band for other projects. If LBN decides to withdraw from treaty then this funding will not be provided.
How are we Going to Pay Back this Huge Debt?
The way that the treaty office gets its funding for negotiation is partially a contribution from the government that LBN will not have to pay back, but most of the money is a loan. The way the system is set up right now the government expects LBN to start paying back the loan when they are finished negotiating a treaty. However, all of the negotiators in BC are getting together at the common table to negotiate some things that are important to everyone. One of the things they are trying to negotiate is that all of these loans be forgiven, that they simply go away. There is no result on this yet. If those negotiations fail there are pieces of the treaty that are designed to help increase the amount of money that LBN receives. These include sections on revenue sharing from the resources on LBN Territory and when the Core Lands come under LBN exclusive control LBN will receive all of the funds from those lands that until now have gone to the BC government. Most treaties also have a cash settlement as part of the agreement. All of these things will help pay down the debt in the event that the debts are not forgiven.
What had Treaty Done so Far for Our Community?
Treaty takes a long time to negotiate and people often feel like all treaty is doing is going to meeting and talking to BC and Canada. Treaty does many other projects that are valuable to LBN outside of the treaty process. The Treaty office is a place where much of the history of LBN is recorded and kept. Treaty staff record interviews with elders and knowledge holders and then type them out and file them in the office. There is also information on genealogies that has been gathered and stored by treaty. The research done by the treaty staff is important for negotiations, but it is also important evidence that LBN used, and continues to use, the territory. When mining and forestry companies want to come and work on the territory the information gathered by treaty is what can be used to force them to talk to LBN and show them that they are going to be damaging LBN traditional practices. Treaty also does studies on things like possible governance structures. In an effort to gather community input into how LBN wants to be governed, the treaty staff present some of the possibilities to the community and then hold focus groups to gather feedback. These are only some of the things that treaty does other than conduct negotiations.
What will Happen to the Reserves Under Treaty?
The areas that are currently reserves will be considered part of the LBN core lands under treaty. That means that LBN will have full ownership and control of these lands.