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BC treaty process gaining steam

The BC Treaty Commission says the Province is poised to take a massive leap forward over the next five years when it comes to formal reconciliation with First Nations.

The Commission released its annual report today, detailing progress on negotiations around BC.

Seventeen First Nations are either in final or advanced agreement negotiations.

“I would say, we are on the cusp of completion – we could be looking at eleven treaties over the next 2-4 years.” Chief Commissioner Celeste Haldane said.

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“There is a potential of a third of the province being settled in treaty over the next number of years. I think that’s significant.”

The Lheidli T’enneh had a treaty ratification vote planned for this month, which has been postponed to a later date.

The Lheidli T’enneh treaty will provide the First Nation with 4,330 hectares of settlement land and a one-time capital transfer payment of approximately $16 million over 10 years. In addition, the First Nation will receive $493,000 annually in resource revenue sharing payments for 50 years, and a combination of $16.4 million in one-time funding and $2.3 million in annual funding to support programs and implementation of the treaty.

But Haldane says the economic benefits spread far beyond the impacted First Nations.

“The projected economic boom to our province is in between 1.2 and 5 billion dollars over the next number of years depending on how many treaties are completed.”

Haldane added treaties are one of the single biggest tools to help close the socio-economic gap by First Nations face when compared to the rest of society.

She says the process has been invigorated, with the provincial and federal governments coming to the table with First Nations with new energy to get these deals done.

All this progress would come as a surprise to many, as the process has been long criticized for being slow moving – just eight agreements have been signed in 23 years.

NDP Aboriginal Affairs Critic Scott Fraser says the system has not evolved in the face of landmark court rulings and changes within society.

“We have no changes in that regard to the treaty process. In BC it hasn’t evolved at all, slowing to a glacial pace.”

Fraser also urged the province to formally adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, something the Commission recommends.

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