The treaty process provides a framework for We Wai Kai, Canada, and BC to work towards a common goal of reconciliation, and building a new relationship through constitutionally protected understandings.
We are in stage 4 of 6 stages, of the treaty process, "Negotiating an Agreement in Principle."
We are currently negotiating jurisdiction of lands, waters, and resources, as well as a land and cash settlement. More information on what we are negotiating specifically can be found in our Agreement in Principle (AIP) Brochure. If you don’t have one yet, contact Dani Assu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250.287.9460.
65 First Nations, representing 105 current and former Indian Act Bands out of all 200 Indian Act Bands in BC, are participating in, or have completed treaties through the treaty negotiations process. This is 52.5% of all BC Indian Act Bands. Four treaties, representing eight First Nations have been signed in the BCTC treaty process (Maa-nulth, Tla’amin, Tsawwassen and Yale).
As of April 2018, First Nations are fully funded to negotiate treaties. Canada's 2019 budget announcement included loan forgiveness for all previous treaty debt.
After treaty We Wai Kai will continue to have access to all INAC programing that is available for other non-treaty Nations and it will continue to cover health and education costs. We will also negotiate funding agreements with Canada that will support our governance system. This allows us the opportunity to enhance and build any programs as we see fit using the additional funds we generate from our lands. Funding does not end and our funding levels will remain at least as they are currently, but in most cases will increase.
First Nations were self-governing long before Europeans arrived in Canada. In 1876, the Indian Act dismantled traditional governance systems and imposed strict regulations on Indigenous peoples' lives. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, recognizes that Indigenous Peoples have an inherent, constitutionally-protected right to self-government – a right to manage our own affairs.
There are no real options for self-government other than treaty, in British Columbia. There are some small measures we can take under various pieces of legislation, including the Land Management Act or the First Nations Financial Management Act. We can also develop our own Citizenship Code and Election Code under the Indian Act. But these are all half measures and amount to authority delegated or allowed through the Indian Act. The only way to be truly self-governing is through treaty negotiations and economic development.
Aboriginal rights are essentially the right to hunt, fish, trap and gather for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Aboriginal title is ownership of lands we can show we have occupied "exclusively" for a very long time. Exclusive ownership is difficult to prove, particularly because of overlaps. These rights become expanded under treaty. Under treaty, we get full ownership of the Treaty Settlement Lands and Self-government. We Wai Kai rights and title will not be extinguished through treaty – they will be asserted and exercised in accordance with the treaty.
All three governments, We Wai Kai, Federal, and Provincial, have a vested interest in ensuring the success of our treaty, therefore, the treaty commitment needs to be clear, fair and implemented within the spirit and interest of treaty. There will also be a review period and a dispute resolution chapter. If governments do not honour the treaties, the treaties provide the legal remedies.
Under the current system we do not own our lands. We are "allowed" to live on Indian Reserves, at Canada’s discretion, in the way Canada requires. We do not make our own laws, and are always subject to the whim of the Minister of Indian Affairs. We are the only people in Canada, other than those in prison, to live so completely under the control of an executive branch of government (Satsan from Frances Abele, Like an ill-fitting boot: Government, governance and management systems in the contemporary Indian Act (p.32))
Because we do not own our lands we have limited opportunities for economic development. This has made many Indian Reserves lands of poverty and abuse surrounded by other lands of wealth.
It is under the Indian Act that the residential school system was carried out. It all happened under the Indian Act and under the "protection" of the Minister of Indian Affairs. The potlatch system was also banned and our language was forbidden under the Indian Act.
Simply because it is something we are used to and know does not mean we should continue to accept living under its weight and control.
No, we do not lose our status or our healthcare after treaty. We will continue to be eligible for all programs and services (including health care, social services and education) available to Aboriginal people and we will continue to be "Status Indians" for these purposes. We Wai Kai has the opportunity to enhance health and education by developing programs for these important services.
Yes. The structure of treaty government will be developed based on the Constitution that We Wai Kai people build. We will vote on our Constitution and it will form the bases of our government and laws. After treaty, the band will no longer exist. There will be a transition period during which the Chief and Council will form the government. After the transition period, the new government will be elected based on the Constitution.
Accountability requires the participation of citizens. Citizens have an obligation to inform themselves and to question their government. In the draft Constitution being developed there will be requirements for laws and policies in place to ensure the We Wai Kai Government is held accountable, but this will only happen if you exercise your rights as citizens.
The best tool to prevent government corruption is to have informed and active citizens. Treaty will also provide tools of good government. There will be laws and policies in place to prevent this from happening. There will be an impartial and independent process for We Wai Kai citizens and other individuals who live on We Wai Kai lands to appeal or ask for a review of We Wai Kai government decisions. Currently, under the Indian Act, there is no formal process to review or challenge decisions made by the We Wai Kai Chief and Council, other than in the courts.
Yes, there will be laws and policies in place. These will be developed by We Wai Kai for We Wai Kai. Our Constitution will define how our laws are passed.
For economic opportunities, We Wai Kai will have treaty settlement lands it can develop. We Wai Kai will also have better forestry opportunities through treaty and we will receive a significant amount of the revenue from all GST and PST transactions on our lands. We will also have greater opportunities to create Joint Venture partnerships and create greater opportunities for our citizens.
Currently our tax exemption is limited and is only based on language in the Indian Act. It is not an Aboriginal right. Indian Affairs is working to remove tax exemption opportunities and it’s anticipated that in the future very few, if any people will be eligible. Treaty gives us the opportunity to ensure that the taxes our citizens pay are returned to us, an option we don’t have once the exemption is lost outside of treaty.
Currently, our We Wai Kai Administration is accountable for our money received from Indian Affairs. This will not change, but post-treaty our We Wai Kai Government will be accountable to our citizens under our Constitution. It will not be accountable to the Minister or Indian Affairs. Our citizens, through our Constitution and governance will ensure that laws and policies are in place to ensure accountability and transparent financial management of all We Wai Kai money and funding.
We do and will continue to manage our finances in a manner that conforms to financial management standards applicable to public governments. Individual citizens are provided with opportunities for education and training, but the ultimate responsibility is with the citizens themselves. The We Wai Kai Government can provide opportunities but it is up to each individual citizen to take advantage of the opportunities and use their own initiative.
Fee simple lands: Federal and Provincial law recognizes this as the highest form of land ownership. The property owner is entitled to full enjoyment of the property, limited only by zoning laws, deed or subdivision restrictions or covenants, all of which are done through Provincial law. The property owner is responsible for paying all taxes established by the government. Fee simple lands can be sold, mortgages inherited.
Indian Reserve lands: The Indian Act (Sec. 18(1)) states that reserves are "held by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of the respective bands for which they were set apart, and subject to this Act and to the terms of any treaty or surrender, the Governor in Council may determine whether any purpose for which lands in a reserve are used or are to be used is for the use and benefit of the band." In other words, Canada owns reserve lands and allows us to use them as long as the Minister agrees with said use.
Treaty Settlement Land: Sometimes called "fee simple plus" because it is ownership plus jurisdiction. We will own our Treaty Settlement lands. We will have law-making authorities on our Treaty Settlement Lands and we will develop them as we determine. We will no longer be under Canada’s or British Columbia’s authority on our own lands.
No, treaty will not extinguish Aboriginal title. One of the key challenges of the treaty process is to achieve certainty of land ownership and jurisdiction, while not extinguishing aboriginal title. In the past, the Government of Canada required First Nations to "cede, release and surrender" their aboriginal rights in exchange for treaty rights. This is referred to as an "extinguishment model." We are now negotiating an agreement that will not extinguish our title to our lands and that will define how we will exercise our rights. We Wai Kai rights and title will not be extinguished through treaty – they will be asserted and exercised in accordance with the treaty.
As noted above, the funding to negotiate a treaty is now considered "contribution" - meaning it is no longer a loan. Canada is reviewing ways to remove all previous loans incurred for treaty negotiations. This means that it will not cost We Wai Kai to negotiate that treaty, giving us an opportunity to negotiate a full package for the community to consider.