January 23, 2007

BC Treaty Monster Grows Three Heads

BC Treaty Monster Grows Three Heads
After 13 Years, The $1-Billion Treaty Machine (Nearly) Produces 3 Treaties
Warrior Publications, January 2007

After 13 years, and over $1 billion in negotiations, 3 modern-day treaties
are near completion under the BC treaty process. The first to sign a
final agreement were the Lheidli T’enneh, on October 29, 2006, at a widely
publicized event in Prince George, BC. Government officials from Canada &
BC were on hand, along with treaty commissioners, to witness the signing
by Lheidli T’enneh band chief, Dominic Frederick.

This first agreement was followed December 8 by the Tsawwassen band,
located near Vancouver, and then the Maa-nulth (on December 9), located
on Vancouver Island (part of the Nuu-Chah-Nulth). These three final
agreements, the fifth step in a six-stage process, represent great
advancements for the BC treaty process, which has yet to complete one
modern-day treaty.

Although taking over a decade to reach this phase, the agreements are
basically the same as that made with the Nisga’a band councils, back in
the late ‘90s. The Nisga’a treaty was completed in separate negotiations,
and has often been said to be a blueprint for the BC treaty process.
This process, which involves federal & provincial negotiators, band
councils, and the BC Treaty Commission, has come under increasing pressure
for its failure to conclude even one treaty.
Meanwhile, white lawyers, bureaucrats, technicians and negotiators have
made millions (along with a few chiefs & councilors).

Money, Land & Resources

The final agreements provide cash, land, & access to natural resources.
Most of the land comes from the provincial government, while money is
provided by the federal government. Natural resources are in the form of
access to (primarily) the fisheries & forestry industries. The band
councils & their corporations are the legal entities through which the
state will transfer these assets. Some of the money provided must be used
to pay back millions of dollars loaned to band councils by the government
for treaty negotiations.

The Lhedli T’enneh are a 320-member band located near Prince George in the
central interior of BC. Their treaty is worth an estimated $76 million,
with over $60 million in cash over a period of up to 50 years. The rest
is in the transfer of land, natural resources (access to fisheries &
forestry), and participation in new hydroelectric projects. The total
land transferred to the band is 4,275 hectares, expanding its reserve land
base from 677 hectares. About 1/3rd of this land (1,160 hectares) is
located within the Prince George city limits. The band is expected to
vote on the final agreement by February 2007, and must have 70 per cent
approval of those voting.

The Tsawwassen treaty is worth an estimated $120 million to the 360
members of the band. Most of this is in resources transferred to the band
council, including land & fisheries, as well as the band’s involvement in
port expansion. The Tsawwassen treaty has been more controversial because
it removes hundreds of hectares of farm land –from the agricultural land
reserve-- for industrial use by the band (i.e., facilities to accommodate
large-scale port expansion), and because it guarantees Natives access to 1
percent of the Fraser River fishery. This treaty has also brought
protests from neighboring bands, including the Semiahmoo, who claim that
it infringes on their territory. The total land transferred to the band
is 724 hectares, up from its reserve size of 290 hectares. The Tsawwassen
band is expected to vote on the final agreement by mid-summer, 2007.

The Maa-nulth are comprised of 5 bands (the Huu-ay-aht, Kay’yukth,
Toquaht, Uchucklesaht, & Ucuelet) totaling some 2,000 members. They are
located on north-east Vancouver Island. Their reserves total 2,064
hectares; under their treaty settlement, this will increase to 24, 498
hectares. The bands will also have access to fisheries & forestry

Loss of Land: the Real (Estate) Danger of Treaties

Although bands signing treaties will receive more land, their entire
land-base will become fee simple, a form of private property that can be
bought, sold, leased or seized. Their reserve lands-- “Crown lands
reserved for use by Indians”—will no longer exist. In this way, the final
remaining land base for Native peoples will be exposed to the free market
as private property. Future generations may well be dispossessed of any
land base (a long-term goal of assimilation):

“The Indian Reserve will no longer exist and all land will then be able
to be sold and as poverty will push people to sell land, it will lead to
fragmentation of our communities and many of our people will be forced
into even worse poverty in the cities.”- Art Manuel, “New Relationship or
Final Solution?” First Nations Strategic Bulletin, December 2006

Economic Certainty & Increased Resource Exploitation

Each final agreement, like the Nisga’a treaty, contains provisions that
surrender Aboriginal title and rights. They are described as the ‘full &
final settlement’ of title & rights. This is one important goal of the
treaties: to achieve legal certainty for government & corporations
seeking to exploit land & resources.

For several decades now, land claims & lawsuits by Natives have led to
many corporate investors withdrawing from projects, costing billions of
dollars to the BC economy in lost revenue (along with roadblocks). A
primary factor has been the absence of treaties & any legal surrender of
land by Indigenous nations throughout the province (a fact re-affirmed in
the 1997 Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision, which recognized the
existence of Aboriginal title).

The achievement of certainty for government & corporations, through the
extinguishment of Aboriginal Title, along with provisions limiting
further claims, sets the stage for greater resource exploitation &
environmental destruction of Indigenous territories once treaties are
“[The Leidli T’enneh treaty] will create certainty & will help
to allow for increased economic development This initialing
will contribute to improving the business & investment
climate in the province.”- Jerry Lampert, Business Council of
BC, “Treaty Creates
Certainty,” by Jim Jamieson, The Province, October 31, 2006

Self-Government & Economic Dependence

Self-government is part of modern-day treaties, and forms an important
part of Canada’s overall strategy towards Indigenous peoples. Some bands
have already signed self-government deals, including Sechelt, Westbank,
James Bay Cree, Yukon bands, etc. In exchange for signing these
agreements, band councils receive greater political & legal power. They
are removed from the Indian Act and re-defined as municipal levels of
government, with the same authority (and responsibility) over local
services such as education, health, housing, water, roads, etc. Although
able to pass by-laws & other local codes, the band governments remain
subject to provincial & Canadian law.

Through their increased legal & economic capacity (including land), the
band councils & their corporations will be better able to engage in
business (primarily with resource corporations). After 12 years of
signing the treaty, the band governments will also be responsible for
taxation of their citizens. These measures are designed to enable the
band councils to achieve greater levels of economic independence, which
is actually dependence on the capitalist economic system. As bands take
greater control over municipal governance, including services, they will
be under greater pressure to attain self-sufficiency, and even more
vulnerable to signing deals with corporations (or even selling land).

Lack of Prior, Informed Consent

The final agreements, which must be ratified by community members, appear
at first glance to be huge settlements. But this is misleading. The
Leidli T’enneh agreement, for example, breaks down to just $230,000 per
band member. Some $20 million of their $60 million cash settlement, in
the form of resource-revenue shares, will be distributed over a period of
50 years. Most of the remaining moneys are designated for programs,
services, economic development, & administration. In exchange, they will
surrender their Aboriginal title & rights to their territories,
potentially lose any remaining land base, while their territories are
further destroyed by resource corporations.

Why would Indigenous people accept such agreements? Because, for the most
part, they have little idea as to what is actually in the final
agreements or their consequences. These documents are over 200 pages
long, full of complex legal jargon that requires lawyers or negotiators
to explain. They have also been crafted largely behind closed doors,
primarily by lawyers & government negotiators (which is also why they are
almost identical, word-for-word), with little if any community
involvement (or even knowledge of):

“ the language & terms are alien to community people and very often the
communities are kept absolutely in the dark about the negotiations
these final agreements are carbon copies of each other in regard to the
extinguishments of Aboriginal title, which points to our people being
coerced into a “final solution.” -Art Manuel, “New Relationship or
Final Solution?,” First
Nations Strategic Bulletin, December 2006


Even before the 1876 Indian Act was passed, Canada’s long-term plan was to
assimilate Indigenous peoples into the European settler society.
Although the Indian Act created an apartheid system with separate
reserves, schools, governance, and even legal status for Natives, these
were always seen as temporary measures necessary for the indoctrination
of Natives into European culture.

By the late 1960s, government officials were publicly discussing the
possibility of abolishing the Indian Act and the Department of Indian
Affairs. In 1970, the government released a ‘white paper’ calling for
just these measures within a 5-year period. The White Paper caused a
groundswell of opposition from Native peoples across the country, and was
eventually withdrawn.

Nevertheless, Canada’s long-term strategy of assimilating Native peoples
continues to this day, in the form of the BC treaty process and other
‘self-government’ negotiations going on across the country. These have
as their goals the removal of all legal & political status of Indigenous
peoples & reserve lands. They are also the means by which Indigenous
people will become more dependent on the capitalist economic system as
traditional land, culture & resources are destroyed.

Resistance is Vital to Survival

“They must give up their status as an Indian reserve & thus would begin
paying taxes, like other Canadians, after an 8-12 year period. Most of
their lands would also become “fee simple,” meaning it would be subject to
the same laws as all real estate in BC The same principle applies to the
resources they obtain, from salmon to hydro-power sources & forests. All
would have to be managed under prevailing provincial & federal laws.”-
Miro Cernetig, “Native Treaty Worth $76 million,” The Vancouver Sun,
October 30, 2006

“It is the grassroots Indigenous Peoples, who have not been informed &
often pressured to accept an outcome, who will have to live under these
Final Agreements, and they must understand the devastating impacts these
agreements will have on their communities and on future
generations.” Art Manuel, “New Relationship or Final Solution,” First
Nations Strategic Bulletin, December 2006

Analysis of the final agreements signed by the Leidli T’enneh, Tsawwassen,
& Maa-nulth in 2006 shows that treaties will mean:

· Loss of Land-Base (from reserve to fee simple property)

· Surrender of Aboriginal Title & Rights to Territory
· Greater Resource Exploitation by Government & Corporations (by
achieving legal & economic certainty)

· Taxation (ending of tax exempt status after 12 years)

· Ending of Indian Act (assimilation as Canadian citizens)

· Forced Dependence on the Capitalist Economic System

While providing short-term economic gains for some, modern-day treaties
threaten present & future generations with dispossession of land & even
greater impoverishment, including the loss of a genuine land-based culture
& way of life. Treaties are a clear danger to Indigenous peoples,
culture, land & resources, and must be resisted. A crucial first step is
education. Anti-treaty resistance is also a good way to learn the
history of colonization in BC, and why there are no treaties in the
province to begin with.


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