Monday, March 09, 2009

United They Stand

BC amalgamation plan will give aboriginals a stronger voice

In a province where dealing with aboriginal affairs has been notoriously difficult things are about to simplified significantly.

In 2002 the people of British Columbia approved the Gordon Campbell government's eight principles for treaty negotiation.

Those principles set the Campbell government's criteria for treaty negotiations. They stipulated the following:

-Private property rights should be respected, and that treaty settlements shouldn't involve the expropriation of property.
-Land use terms and licenses should be respected, and anyone whose commercial interests are disrupted should be compensated.
-The use of Crown land should be reserved for all British Columbians, including for hunting, fishing and recreation.
-Provincial parks should be reserved for the use of all British Columbians.
-Resource management and environmental protection standards shoulda apply province-wide.
-Aboriginal government should be modelled on local government. All powers delegated by the federal and provincial governments should apply.
-Harmonization of land use planning should be entrenched within treaties.
-Tax examptions for aboriginals should be phased out.

Even with the government's criteria for an agreement mandated by the citiens of BC negotiation of those treaties have proven very difficult. With more than 200 separate aboriginal groups in BC, reaching an agreement would prove nearly impossible.

A recent piece of legislation introduced by the government of BC would allow aboriginal groups to amalgamate, reducing the number of separate groups to a number as small as 25.

The legislation will also recognize the title rights of BC aboriginals as the original inhabitants of the province.

"We heard the B.C. minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation say that it is up to the First Nations to determine what their political structure is going to be -- and it might well be 203 First Nations or it might be 30 or it might be 100. We just don't know how that's logically going to play out," said Chief Judith Sayers of the Hupacasath First Nation. "People have to ask questions because I don't want to be forced into working with First Nations that we might not get along with or it doesn't make a natural fit."

By amalgamating their groups not only will aboriginal treaty negotiations with the BC government go smoother, they will also have stronger, more unified voices to speak with.

That's why the Member of the First Nations Summit's decision to support the legislation put forth by BC Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation Mike de Jong is so important.

It could even provide a better model for Aboriginal self-government for the rest of the country.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Chrystal Ocean - "Native Rights to be Entrenched in BC Law"

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