Saturday, April 2, 2011

New treaty 'taking our rightful place in Canada'

Historic treaty will allow B.C.'s Maa-nulth First Nations to go beyond the Indian Act

Georgia Straight: Five First Nations will begin a new era of self-government as Vancouver Island's first modern-day treaty comes into effect. The Maa-nulth Final Agreement (.pdf)... has been in the works for 18 years. On April 1, a series of new laws [were] enacted to breathe life into what Huu-ay-aht First Nations hereditary chief Tom Mexsis Happynook says is a 150-year ancestral vision... 'We will be rising from the ashes of colonialism and taking our rightful place in Canada.'... The treaty will reinvigorate powers of Huu-ay-aht hereditary institutions; a system of government that combines hereditary chiefs with elected council members...

As part of the final agreement, the Huu-ay-aht First Nation will receive a capital transfer of $26.4 million over a period of nine years. They'll also receive access to natural resources they say are critical to economic stability. 'We will be able to climb out of the Third World conditions that Canadian First Nations live in across this country,' Happynook said. 'We now have the tools and the resources, both human and natural, to start rebuilding our economy.'... Those tools include an already successful forestry company, fishing opportunities, and cultural tourism...

Happynook said he anticipates that the process will eventually be simplified for others going through the negotiation process. 'I think that as time passes by that we will become more efficient at negotiating treaties in B.C. and that other First Nations will feel the joy that we're feeling right now,' he said.

The Maa-nulth Final Agreement is just the second modern-day treaty to be ratified under the B.C. Treaty Commission process. The Tsawwassen First Nation treaty came into effect in April 2009. The Nisga'a Final Agreement, the first modern-day treaty in the province, came into effect in May of 2000, and was not a part of the current B.C. treaty process.

The Maa-nulth treaty-implementation date comes about a week after a vote by the K'omoks First Nation on March 26 in favour of their agreement in principle. The eastern Vancouver Island community is one of seven First Nations across the province in advanced agreement-in-principle negotiations. The Sliammon community is one of three First Nations that have completed treaties that have not yet been ratified. [Two others] are completing their treaties, while another 27 First Nations are in active negotiations.
Image: Maa-nulth nations; source here.