Government Invests $6.7M In Northwestern Ontario
INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY (ICT) INITIATIVES - $2,402,961
Keewaytinook Okimakanak (K-Net)
A FedNor contribution of $500,000 will help K-Net to identify and address ICT needs, promoting broadband uses among First Nation communities across Northern Ontario. This will enable First Nation communities to share electronic files, access online services, and take advantage of video conferencing technology and e-commerce opportunities.
An additional $500,000 will assist K-Net to interconnect its network of remote First Nations and the networks of health and education facilities. This project will facilitate more extensive and efficient sharing of information and broadband applications.
The remaining $500,000 will assist K-Net in upgrading telehealth and digital X-Ray equipment in Sioux Lookout, Red Lake and several remote First Nation communities, providing patients with access to medical specialists without the need to travel to other centres.
Lakehead Social Planning Council
Under the direction of the United Way of Thunder Bay, the Lakehead Social Planning Council will use FedNor funding of $400,000 over the next three years to establish 2-1-1 community information and referral services across all of Northern Ontario. As part of a national initiative, this project will help residents find and access a variety of social and health services.
Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre (NOIC)
The Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre will receive $288,000 to address gaps in broadband services in Northern Ontario and encourage small businesses to take advantage of high speed Internet applications. An additional $53,334 will be used to expand its services and programming, and $21,667 will support the development and delivery of a series of interactive sessions to help companies foster an innovative work environment.
Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute
With a FedNor investment of $139,960, the Oshki-Pimache-O-Win Education and Training Institute will upgrade its distance learning infrastructure and capacity to improve access to postsecondary education and training for Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities.
TOURISM INITIATIVES - $1,832,111
Township Of Nipigon
A FedNor contribution of $1,532,111 will be used to help Nipigon implement its municipal revitalization plan, which centres on the creation of a tourism attraction inspired by the children’s book, Paddle to the Sea. This project will include the construction of a large family park in the downtown area, as well as a promenade and a series of 18 interactive stations reflecting chapters of the book.
Town of Fort Frances
A FedNor investment of $300,000 is supporting the first phase of Fort Frances’ Heritage Tourism Plan. This project focuses on renovating and expanding the Fort Frances Museum and Cultural Centre, including the construction of exhibits.
SMALL BUSINESS INITIATIVES - $1,187,500
Atikokan Economic Development Corporation
An investment of $290,000 will support the ongoing operations of the Atikokan CFDC, providing services to support local economic development and small business growth, including access to capital, business services, assistance with community-based projects and strategic community planning.
Greenstone Economic Development Corporation
The Greenstone CFDC will use FedNor funding of $322,500 to support its ongoing operations that focus on local economic development and small business growth. Its primary services include access to capital, business counselling and technical services, and assistance with special community initiatives and strategic planning.
Chukuni Communities Development Corporation
Lake of the Woods Business Incentive Corporation (LOWBIC)
These regional Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) will each use a FedNor contribution of $287,500 to support their ongoing operations that focus on local economic development and small business growth, including access to capital, business counselling services, strategic community planning and assistance with community-based projects.
FIRST NATION INITIATIVES - $1,083,019
Naicatchewenin First Nation
A FedNor investment of $463,800 will enable Naicatchewenin First Nation to expand its cedar furniture manufacturing plant, Kish Gon Dug (KGD) and acquire additional equipment. An additional $141,930 will be used to provide marketing and production management counselling, helping KGD manage its current sales commitments, identify new opportunities, and develop a long-term capital improvement plan enabling the company to achieve full production capacity.
Pikangikum First Nation
Pikangikum First Nation will use a FedNor contribution of $477,289 to develop value-added forestry opportunities for the community’s Whitefeather Forest Initiative. Activities will include securing environmental assessment approval for commercial forestry projects and the completion of a forestry management plan.
YOUTH INITIATIVES - $216,935
Eight new youth Interns will gain valuable job experience through FedNor’s Youth Internship Program (YIP), helping them make the transition from the campus to the workplace. Their responsibilities will include website and database editing, implementing marketing plans and coordinating economic development. Host organizations receiving FedNor YIP funding of up to $27,500, are:
On August 8, 2006, Minister Clement celebrated the 1000th youth intern placement in Northern Ontario. In the last year alone, FedNor has invested $676,935 in support of 25 youth interns in Northwestern Ontario.
Government Invests Over $2.7 Million In The Timmins-James Bay Area
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario, April 27, 2007 — The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health and Minister for FedNor, underlined the commitment of Canada’s New Government to Northern Ontario today by announcing the results of a $28.1M investment in support of 140 economic development projects benefiting hundreds of communities located throughout the vast region. Minister Clement announced the funding, provided by FedNor’s two main programs – Northern Ontario Development and Community Futures – during a visit to Sault Ste. Marie this morning.
“Today’s announcement shows that Canada’s New Government’s is committed to improve the economic well-being of the businesses and residents across Northern Ontario,” stated Minister Clement. “Investing in technology, youth and community economic development will help create jobs and diversify the economy.”
Of the total, over $2.7 million is earmarked for the Timmins-James Bay area, supporting 12 projects that will improve the social and economic prosperity of the region through investments in youth-related initiatives, broadband expansion across the region, and community economic development projects (see attached information sheet).
“Today’s announcement is an investment in the future of our region and reinforces the vital role FedNor has played, and continues to play, in the revitalization of Northern Ontario’s economy,” stated Timmins Mayor, Tom Laughren. “FedNor’s investment will allow Timmins and surrounding areas to take concrete steps to ensure that our region remains competitive, helping us to grow and allowing us to capitalize on emerging opportunities."
As outlined in Budget 2007, Canada’s New Government is creating competitive advantages for a stronger economy by reducing Canada’s debt, lowering the taxes on hard-working families, helping Canadian businesses compete globally, and making unprecedented investments in the infrastructure that connects the nation.
Today’s announcement supports FedNor’s strategic approach to helping Northern communities transition to a knowledge-based economy. More specifically, FedNor is meeting key Northern priorities, including: helping young graduates find full-time employment through FedNor’s Youth Internship Program; ensuring that Northern communities have access to broadband so that residents can take advantage of the latest e-learning and tele-health initiatives; providing access to capital and advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs; developing an innovation capacity for medical and resource-based research; supporting trade networks to link Northern products and services to international markets; and facilitating marketing partnerships between tourism operators to attract new visitors to Northern Ontario.
By supporting the residents of Timmins-James Bay through its programs and services, FedNor is opening doors and building futures for a prosperous Northern Ontario.
To find out more about FedNor, visit us at: http://fednor.ic.gc.ca
For more information, please contact:
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
705-671-0715 or 1-877-333-6673
The last two articles in a four part series called "Reconciling with First Nations" from TheTyee.ca ...
Long Road to a Treaty
By Sandra Shields
Published: April 20, 2007 - http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/04/20/NewRelationship/
In 1867, the BC government reduced Stó:lō reserves by 92 per cent without Stó:lō consent. Justice today?
[Editor's Note: Two years ago, the government of British Columbia and First Nations leaders laid out a vision for a "New Relationship," spurring initiatives aimed at "closing the gap" between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal British Columbians. This is the second-to-last article in a Tyee Solutions Reporting Fellowship series by Sandra Shields, who is looking at steps being taken in her home community of the Fraser Valley.]
It probably happened in May. The first salmonberries would have been ripening along the creeks draining into the Fraser and the last eulachon would soon be headed upriver to spawn. Queen Victoria was not there, though her birthday was the occasion. She was over in England, mid-way through her long reign. Throughout the 1860s, her birthday was a time when Stó:lō chiefs and their families from up and down the mighty river gathered at New Westminster to meet with representatives of the Queen who had claimed their territory as her own. On this occasion, speeches were traded back and forth and the colonial governor made a promise on behalf of the Queen.
Keith Thor Carlson (http://www.usask.ca/history/faculty_kcarlson.shtml) is a professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan and first became intrigued by this promise when he was working as a treaty advisor for Stó:lō Nation.
"The Stó:lō have this story," he explains, "that says: We did not fight you, we did not cause problems for you when your settlers moved into our territory, because we were under the impression that you would be compensating us according to a standardized formula that we thought was very fair."
The promise went like this: when lands outside their reserves were sold, the Stó:lō would receive a third of the proceeds, B.C. would receive a third, and the Queen would receive a third.
"One of the things that I think is impressive about the oral history is the consistency of it," Carlson says. "A couple of different families have slightly different versions -- one says a quarter, one says a third -- but that's not important, all the basic parts are consistent and unchanging."
"The irony is that it's the written culture that is inconsistent and is constantly trying to go back and revise and ignore its own text," he says.
"There was this important book that was published called Papers Connected with the Indian Land Question (http://miva.crownpub.bc.ca/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=CTB&Product_Code=005-820&Category_Code=CP-02-01-01). It was published way back in 1875. The Opposition party in the province was looking for a way to get elected and they latched onto this issue of Indian title. They said: you know we've got a lot of disgruntled Indians in this province and they say they've been wrong done by. So the Opposition party commissioned an archivist to go in and collect all the papers that related to the Indian land question in the archives of the province and put them together in a book form. The Opposition promptly got elected and when they realized how much it would cost to follow through on what they had promised, they took that book and pulled it from the bookstores and refused to issue any further editions. So you have Stó:lō people, right up until the 1920s, two generations later saying: We would like a copy of this book, we know it exists, we know it justifies our oral history. But by this time the Opposition was the government and they wouldn't do it. These things are easy to document, they're well known historical facts."
Carlson offers another example. Originally the Stó:lō had relatively big reserves. "A few years later when the government came in and reduced the reserves, they said: You don't need big reserves because you are fishermen and you have this lucrative fish economy. The Stó:lō were selling fish to white people and making all kinds of money from it. So no sooner had they shrunk the reserves than the government changed the laws in the 1880s and said: You can no longer sell fish that are caught in the river, only fish caught in the ocean can be sold, and the fish you do catch can only be used for personal consumption or ceremonial purposes."
Carlson has spent years studying the oral and written history of Aboriginal-colonial relations in the Fraser Valley. When it comes to treaties, he knows where he stands.
"The sad thing here," he says, "is that the Stó:lō are asking us to live up to our laws. They're not saying that for you to come here you have to live up to Stó:lō laws. They're saying: We understand that you have laws that protect our rights and we're asking you to live up to your laws."
Coles notes on treaties
Today, the Stó:lō, like most First Nations in B.C., still lack formal written agreements with the governments that assumed control of their territory. There is a bit of folk wisdom that says that if you don't deal with your problems, they go down to the basement and pump weights. On an issue where disagreement is the norm, it is safe to say that the B.C. government did not make the work of negotiating treaties any easier by ignoring it for over a century.
In undertaking this series, I was curious to learn more about the negotiations going on in my corner of the Fraser Valley. Was a treaty imminent? How might it affect the whole community? What was the place of treaties in the "New Relationship"?
If you find yourself confused by treaties, you're not alone. Treaties between Aboriginal people and newcomers have a long contested history that has created volumes of case law. Amidst all the legal jargon, it can be easy to miss the drama of treaty negotiations as they continue to build, as any good plot must, to a still uncertain outcome.
Next week, this series explores what is happening with treaties and asks what the future might look like once they are in place. But treaties can only be understood by looking to the past, so what follows is a short primer on key events that have led to the strange embrace that B.C. and Aboriginal people find ourselves in today.
1763: Rules for colonizing
The promise made to the Stó:lō was in keeping with Britain and Canada's approach to relations with Aboriginal people. Common law was made explicit in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 when King George III declared that only the Crown could acquire lands from First Nations and that all purchases must be agreed to in open negotiations. Accordingly, across the rest of Canada, treaties were entered into that saw Aboriginal people give up title to the land in exchange for reserves and various other promises.
BC: A law unto itself
With a few exceptions, the powers that be in B.C. never got around to negotiating with Aboriginal people to acquire their land. One of the reasons: lack of funds. Another: lack of public support.
1858 -- The mainland became a colony; there was a gold rush going on and instead of negotiating treaties, Governor Douglas went ahead and laid out reserves.
1867 -- The B.C. government reduced Stó:lō reserves by 92 per cent without Stó:lō consent. This was consistent with what became B.C.'s position of denying that Aboriginal people ever owned the land and refusing to pay compensation for loss of lands and resources.
1871 -- B.C. became part of Canada and continued to maintain its no-treaty policy for more than 100 years.
1876: Indian Act
This act of Parliament dismantled traditional governance systems and made Aboriginal people wards of the federal government living on reserve land, which was owned by the federal government. They did not have the right to vote, own property or purchase alcohol. (In B.C., title of Indian reserves was not transferred from the province to the federal government until 1938.)
1884 -- Indian Act was amended to include "anti-potlatch law" which made it illegal for Aboriginal people to gather together for any kind of ceremony where gifts were given out.
Nisga'a: First modern treaty
It was a court case that finally changed the B.C. government's no-treaty position. The Nisga'a people of the Nass Valley had been petitioning to have their land rights recognized for generations before they took B.C. to court.
1887 -- Nisga'a chiefs traveled to Victoria to press for treaties and self-government.
1913 -- Nisga'a filed formal claim to the Nass Valley.
1967 -- Nisga'a chiefs launched a case against B.C. seeking recognition of their Aboriginal title to the Nass River Valley where they had fished and hunted for thousands of years.
1973 -- The Supreme Court of Canada found that Aboriginal rights are recognized under Canadian law but the judges were split on whether those rights had been extinguished in B.C.
Within months the federal government announced it would seek to settle land claims in parts of Canada where treaties were never signed. The federal government and the Nisga'a began to negotiate but the B.C. government maintained its no-treaty position. With B.C. holding most of the Crown land in the province, the process was doomed without B.C.'s participation. Throughout the 1980s protests and blockades became a feature of life in the province.
1990 -- In a break with B.C.'s longstanding denial of Aboriginal rights, Premier Bill Vander Zalm sent negotiators to join talks underway between the federal government and the Nisga'a.
1999 -- B.C. and Canada ratify the final agreement leading to the Nisga'a treaty.
2000 -- The Nisga'a treaty becomes law.
BC treaty process (part 1)
1990 -- The current B.C. treaty process grew out of the Nisga'a negotiations. First Nations leaders met with Canada and B.C. and asked for a task force to develop a process for modern treaty negotiations in B.C. The B.C. Claims Task Force was established.
1991 -- The B.C. Claims Task Force report (http://www.aaf.gov.bc.ca/aaf/pubs/bcctf/toc.htm) recommended that First Nations, Canada and B.C. establish a new relationship "based on mutual trust, respect and understanding" -- through political negotiations.
1992 -- The BC Treaty Commission (http://www.bctreaty.net/) was established as an independent body to monitor adherence to the recommendations of the task force.
The six-step treaty process in use in B.C. today was put in place by the task force. The six stages (http://www.bctreaty.net/files/sixstages.php) are a way of organizing the complex series of discussions and documents that ultimately result in a treaty.
In the Constitution
1982 -- Section 35 of the Constitution Act (http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/Const/index.html) recognizes and affirms aboriginal rights and treaty rights, both existing and those that may yet be acquired.
Back in court
1997 -- In the landmark Delgamuukw decision (http://www.delgamuukw.org/), the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Aboriginal title is a right to the land itself, not just the right to hunt and fish and gather. The decision confirmed that Aboriginal title does exist in B.C. and that when dealing with Crown land, the government must consult with and may have to compensate First Nations. The court strongly urged governments and First Nations to negotiate rather than litigate. The Chief Justice pointed out that litigation is costly and divisive and said the Crown is under a moral, if not a legal, duty to negotiate in good faith. The decision ended with the often quoted words: "Let us face it, we are all here to stay."
November 2004 -- The Supreme Court ruled on two cases: one involving the Haida Nation and the other the Taku River Tlingit First Nations. In both cases, the court confirmed that government must consult and possibly accommodate the interest of First Nations before proceeding with development on their traditional territory, even where Aboriginal title has not been proven. This duty is an interim measure prior to the question of rights being addressed in treaty or in court.
Campbell vs. Nisga'a
The Nisga'a treaty met with a great deal of opposition. In particular, the B.C. Liberal party under Gordon Campbell took the treaty to court.
1999 -- The B.C. Liberal party (Leader of the Opposition Gordon Campbell, along with Geoff Plant and Mike de Jong) brought a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Nisga'a Treaty.
2000 -- The B.C. Supreme Court ruled against the B.C. Liberal party and found that the Nisga'a treaty is constitutionally valid and that self-government is a constitutionally protected Aboriginal right.
2001 -- B.C. Liberal party was elected, Gordon Campbell became premier and the legal challenge to the Nisga'a treaty decision was dropped.
April 2002 -- Following through on an election promise, the B.C. Liberals held a referendum (http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2002/05/15/bc_referendum020515.html) asking voters whether they agreed or disagreed with eight questions regarding treaty settlements. The questions dealt with legal positions regarding property, governance, resources and tax issues. Critics charged the questions circumvented and contradicted court decisions and were designed to give the province leverage in treaty talks. Ballots were returned by 36 per cent of eligible voters (7 per cent of those were spoiled).
February 2003 -– B.C. throne speech (http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/nrm_news_releases/2003OTP0009-000153.htm) embraced the concept of reconciliation, declared an end to denial and pledged to take serious steps to undo the damage caused to Aboriginal people.
September 2003 -- First Nations Summit - http://www.fns.bc.ca/ (representing Aboriginal people in the treaty process) stated it was time for B.C. to pull itself out of colonial times, and presented "Framework for Recognition and Reconciliation" to Premier Campbell.
November 2004 -- Decisions in the Haida and Taku River cases confirmed that government must consult and possibly accommodate the interest of First Nations before proceeding with economic activities on Crown land.
February 2005 -- Premier Campbell acknowledged that the provincial consultation policy was not working and expressed an interest in "doing it right" this time. He committed to openly discuss how to establish a new relationship.
March 2005 -- First Nations leaders came together in a historic accord between Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit and BC Assembly of First Nations. The province began meeting with this leadership council and a joint vision statement, "The New Relationship," was released to reduce uncertainty, litigation and conflict.
June 2005 -- B.C.'s Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (http://www.gov.bc.ca/bvprd/bc/channel.do?action=ministry&channelID=-536896053&navId=NAV_ID_province) is formed.
February 2006 -- Speech from the throne declares that "British Columbia is determined to lead Canada and walk the path together to lasting reconciliation."
March 2006 -- First Nations New Relationship Trust Fund announced with $100 Million for First Nations capacity building. Shawn Atleo with BC Assembly of First Nations said, "Undoubtedly we are at a turning point in our journey towards reconciliation...."
May 2006 -- Premier's Statement on the New Relationship with Aboriginal People: "We have seen the consequences of Canada's collective political failures to its first citizens. We know the toll it has taken on Aboriginal children and families -- and there are no more excuses. We have seen the consequences of shattered hope spawned by over a century of betrayal, denial and negligence by governments of every stripe. There are no more excuses. We have seen the consequences of confrontation, litigation and opportunities lost. We know too well the consequences of frustration, anger, mistrust and despair. There are no more excuses."
BC treaty process (part 2)
The "New Relationship" makes no mention of treaties and has resulted in a growing number of interim agreements designed to (1) address the socio-economic gap and (2) provide a degree of certainty for economic activities on Crown land. Some commentators have speculated that the interim agreement approach may eclipse treaties altogether. In November 2006, the Auditor General of Canada's report (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/html/20061107ce.html) stated that the B.C. treaty process "is important to all Canadians," and criticized the cost, pace and lack of results. About 60 per cent of First Nations in B.C. are in the treaty process, but as yet, no treaties have resulted. By the end of 2006, three final agreements had been initialed. In order to move forward to treaty, final agreements must be accepted by community members through a ratification vote.
October 29, 2006 -- The first final agreement (http://www.cbc.ca/news/story/2006/11/08/bc-treaty.html) reached under the B.C. treaty process was initialed by the Lheidli T'enneh near Prince George.
December 8, 2006 -- The second final agreement (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2006/12/08/tsawwassen-treaty.html) reached under the treaty process was initialed by the Tsawwassen First Nation.
December 9, 2006 -- The third final agreement (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2006/12/09/bc-treaty.html) reached under the treaty process was initialed by the Maa-nulth First Nations on Vancouver Island.
March 30, 2007 -- In the Lheidli T'enneh ratification vote, community members voted 123 against the final agreement and 111 in favour.
July 25, 2007 -- Tsawwassen First Nation scheduled to vote on ratification.
Fall 2007 -- Maa-nulth First Nations scheduled to vote on ratification.
At the Table - A 'new relationship' perhaps, but Stó:lō frustrations are mounting.
Last in a series.
By Sandra Shields
Published: April 27, 2007 - http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/04/27/Reconciliation/
[Editor's Note: Two years ago, the government of British Columbia and First Nations leaders laid out a vision for a "New Relationship," spurring initiatives aimed at "closing the gap" between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal British Columbians. This is the last article in a five-part Tyee Solutions Reporting Fellowship series by Sandra Shields, who is looking at steps being taken in her home community of the Fraser Valley. To learn more about Shields, her series and Tyee fellowships, go here. http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/03/30/Reconcile/]
Chief Alice Thompson of the Leq'á:mél First Nation has no trouble finding the farm where I live. When she was a girl, she picked raspberries here in the summer. Many locals remember spending hot days amid the raspberry canes in these fields. The berries are gone now, as is the couple who came from Europe after World War II, cleared the fields and built this farmhouse where, on an overcast spring day, Thompson and I sit down for a conversation.
Before completing this series, I wanted to learn how the B.C. treaty process is affecting this out-of-the-way corner of the Fraser Valley. After more than a decade of slow progress ("like watching paint dry" as Grand Chief Clarence Pennier once described it), treaty making in B.C. got interesting last October.
The week before Halloween saw the signing of the first final agreement -- a 200-page document that needed only community approval by the Lheidli T'enneh to become a treaty ready for acceptance by the B.C. legislature and the Canadian Parliament. That same week the leaders of more than 40 communities involved in the treaty process gathered in Nanaimo to sign a "unity protocol." (http://wwww.ubcic.bc.ca/files/PDF/UnityProtocol.pdf) They were all encountering the same obstacles to settling treaties and said it was time for Canada and B.C. to change their mandates on key issues.
In November, the auditors general of Canada and B.C. released reports (http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/domino/reports.nsf/html/20061107xe03.html) criticizing the treaty process for costing too much and delivering too little. Within days, two more final agreements had been signed by the Tsawwassen and Maa-nulth.
Treaties took a hiatus from the headlines until the end of March when the Lheidli T'enneh surprised the province by voting not to accept their final agreement. A week later, the unity protocol hit the news again. Now half the nations in treaty negotiations were pressing Canada and B.C. to fix the treaty process and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, historically opposed to treaty, had passed a resolution in support of the protocol.
Treaties in B.C. seem to be moving through a critical make-or-break year. In this final piece, I was interested in connecting the dots between the provincial headlines and the place that Chief Alice Thompson and I both call home. The dots led to Mike Harcourt, the former premier of B.C. who is about to leave the Treaty Commission after four years of facilitating treaties. The dots also led to Robert Morales, spokesperson for the nations that have signed the unity protocol. But the dots began in my living room with Leq'á:mél Chief Alice Thompson.
Getting past paternalism
You could say Alice Thompson was born to politics. Her dad was chief when she was a toddler, and by the time she was a teenager, her mom was into a 20-year stint as chief. Over the years, Thompson has been band manager and served on council. She was elected last spring and took on the challenge of leading a growing community in uncertain times.
"Unofficially we have 400 members," she says, "and the majority of our population is under 30." She explains that many of their youth grew up with parents who had low self esteem and it's become an intergenerational problem.
"My struggle always is how do we encourage our youth to believe in themselves. A lot of people say their future is in our hands; I believe my future is in their hands. I don't think they realize how much power they have."
Thompson and the Leq'á:mél council have made it a priority to engage community members, young and old. "We are struggling to get out of that paternalism of the past," she says. "My belief has always been that in order for us to succeed we need to have community participation. We can't go around all the time telling people what they need, we need to hear from the community what they need and how we can go about making it happen."
Is the provincial government's new relationship with First Nations helping out? "I think it's dissipating before it even reaches the ground," Thompson says. "The words in the New Relationship document, they're shiny, they look good on paper, but unless they're in motion they don't mean anything." Instead, she finds herself trying to build capacity while grappling with Indian Affairs programs that fail to meet the needs of her community.
"There are just so many areas that need attention," she says. As well as dealing with everything from reserve infrastructure to social programs, cultural activities and economic development, she is increasingly pulled away from community work to deal with external issues. Consultation on forestry matters is ongoing, there is the pressing issue of the dykes along the Fraser, and a major upgrade of transmission lines has the band involved in urgent meetings with BC Hydro.
Together with the band council, Thompson has been making efforts to reach out to the local community, attending regional district meetings and connecting with the city council in nearby Mission. She is heartened by the way the Leq'á:mél community centre has become a hub where people from outside the band feel comfortable.
As for treaty, Thompson says, "It's been a long haul and we've still got a long haul to go." The Leq'á:mél joined the treaty process in 1994 as part of the Stó:lō Nation alliance. A few years ago, the alliance fractured and treaty talks were suspended. Recently, seven of the bands (with a combined membership of about 1,200 people), returned to the table with the ambitious agenda of completing an agreement-in-principle (or AIP) by April 2008.
"We did at one point think about pulling back and going on our own, but it would just be too overwhelming," Thompson says. Sharing the cost is an advantage, as is the opportunity to share resources and knowledge, and to be able to discuss issues.
"I've always said we need to be in charge of our own destination and that translates over to self government." She remembers bringing the subject up in the 1980s when her mom was still chief. "My mom said: What are you talking about?! She was almost mad at me. She said it would never happen -- not in her lifetime."
Twenty years later, Thompson has just helped wrap up the governance chapter of the Stó:lō Nation AIP. If everything goes according to plan, that chapter will become part of the treaty that will enable the Leq'á:mél to move out from under the Indian Act and begin to govern themselves.
The big thumb
The amount of work involved in modern treaty making is staggering. While Thompson and others participate in working groups where chapters are drafted, Chief Joe Hall, president of Stó:lō Nation, is on the four-person team that sits down and does the actual negotiating with Canada and B.C.
"As much as we'd like to believe these treaties are about negotiating a new relationship that will allow us to co-exist," he says, "the governments' approach often demonstrates that for them it is more of a devolution and a liability prevention exercise." Basically, it's about covering the Queen's butt.
Still, he finds the process exciting. "I call the Indian Act the big thumb," he says. "The notion that we can get out from under the Indian Act in the not-too-distant future certainly has its attractions."
"If it's a good treaty, then down the road you will see the health and welfare of communities improve. Lower unemployment, lower social assistance, lower health problems, longer lifespan, a self-generating economy. Those would all be hallmarks of a good treaty."
A critical part of the process, he says, is community outreach to ensure members participate in discussions about the treaty process. "The constituents who are going to be voting on the treaty, they have to be knowledgeable. We want to make sure they understand all facets of the treaty. There are going to be areas of give and take, there's going to be mitigation, and if they don't understand the mitigation that was involved, then all they see is that 100 per cent of our desires haven't been met."
How is the mood at the table since talks resumed? "We're still in the honeymoon stage," he says. "We have been dealing with process issues like dispute resolution and the ratification process, but we all recognize that on the horizon there are some substantive issues that are going to be difficult and they could be potential show stoppers."
Other First Nations have been running into the same show-stoppers and Stó:lō Nation joined them in signing the unity protocol asking the governments for a joint table to discuss solutions.
"Right now, the biggest obstacle to treaties is the mandate that the federal and provincial negotiators bring to the table," Hall says. "The unity protocol is an effort to try and work together as a whole rather than work at individual tables. There seem to be some watershed issues here and once we come to a resolution that is going to work, then we'll see these treaties flow a lot more quickly."
When I talk to Robert Morales, our conversation is punctuated by the sound of the BC Ferries' horn. Morales is traveling from his home in the Cowichan to the mainland to meet with First Nations and business leaders about fixing what his recent news release called the "crumbling treaty process."
Morales has spent six years as the chief negotiator for the Hul'qumi'num treaty group (http://www.hulquminum.bc.ca/). He is also the chair of the Chief Negotiators Forum for the First Nations Summit (http://www.fns.bc.ca/pdf/Unity_NR_AGreportsDec0106.pdf). He moved into the spotlight last October with the unity protocol.
The unity group is asking government to engage them collectively to find mutually acceptable positions on six complex and contentious issues at the heart of treaty making: certainty, constitutional status of treaty lands, governance, co-management of traditional territories, fiscal relations and taxation, and fisheries.
To date, B.C.'s approach to treaties has been more divide-and-conquer. "If you read the attorney general's report for B.C.," Morales says, "they were quite critical about B.C.'s approach of using the lead tables, Lheidli T'enneh, Tsawwassen and Maa-nulth, to develop the policy."
The reverse approach was taken in the Yukon where treaty negotiations began with discussions that included all First Nations and resulted in an umbrella agreement (http://www.theyukon.ca/dbs/cyfn/dyncat.cfm?catid=77) covering key issues like land, compensation, self-government and co-management of resources. The umbrella agreement became the framework within which each nation could create its own final settlement.
"In B.C. the first agreement off the ground becomes the umbrella agreement for the whole province," says Morales, "so whichever one of those agreements gets ratified becomes the umbrella agreement for everybody else. We didn't have any input into it. It is just not acceptable."
Another concern raised in the auditor general's report is that government mandates are set by bureaucrats who remain behind the scenes and are not up to speed on the new relationship. The report called treaty negotiations "one of the most controlled and inflexible processes in the federal government." A unity table where the chief negotiators come together with high-level government officials would be a way to bypass this inflexible process and create what Morales calls "a real negotiating decision-making process." One with "compromise on all sides."
"Our challenge as First Nations," he says, "is to come up with a common vision on those six issues." Not an easy thing, he points out, when dealing with the diverse opinions and circumstances of 60 First Nations. "What I expect we will end up with is two or three policy positions on each of the key issues so there is some opportunity to choose." This multiple choice approach would offer both governments and First Nations room for give and take.
Does Morales still believe in treaties? "If we expect to resolve the land question and overcome our present socio-economic position, then I think treaty is a worthwhile process," he says. "It is probably the only process that will get us there. We can piecemeal it, which is the new relationship approach, getting little bits of certainty here and there for five or 10 years but then you're back to the drawing boards again."
He points out that the process is expensive for First Nations and they would like to get on with it. Many First Nations, Morales says, would like to see treaties settled before the 2010 Olympics.
"If the government keeps putting it off, then I suspect the costs will just continue to escalate. I think everyone loses if we can't resolve this."
Harcourt on treaties
Mike Harcourt has been a supporter of treaty making in B.C. since his days as a law student. When he became premier in 1991, one of the first things he did was sign the document that set up the treaty process. Four years ago, after a remarkable recovery from a near-fatal fall, Harcourt came full circle as the federal appointee to the BC Treaty Commission (http://www.bctreaty.net/) where one of the tables he facilitated was Stó:lō Nation. Harcourt is leaving the Treaty Commission in two weeks, so this seemed an auspicious time for a conversation about treaties.
When we speak on the phone early one morning, Harcourt says that BC's relationship with First Nations was the issue that got him out of the mayor's chair and into provincial politics. As mayor of Vancouver from 1980 to 1986, Harcourt watched confrontation and bitterness increase across the province. "I was getting frustrated that we weren't acknowledging that Aboriginal rights and title existed and that we needed to sit down and negotiate."
He is heartened by how things have changed, but believes the relationship with First Nations people is still the key issue in B.C. He advocates patience, pointing out that the old relationship, "which didn't work for anybody," was 150 years old. "We're into a new phase," he says. "It's new and it's tender and we're still in trial and error."
What about the unity protocol? "I think the Commission can play a role there in terms of dialogue and information exchange about the points that have been raised and whether they can be worked out on a province-wide basis."
He says that not only is signing treaties the right thing to do, it comes with huge economic benefits for both First Nations and B.C. He estimates that $150 to 200 billion will flow through the provincial economy in the next two decades as a result of treaties.
Are we ready?
For several years now, Harcourt has been asking whether we are ready for treaties and answering his own question with a resounding No. There is much to be done, he says, if we want to prevent crash landings once treaties are signed.
"The province has got to get its co-management regime in place and make it do-able," Harcourt says. And together with the feds and First Nations, B.C. must get on with closing the socio-economic gap.
The federal government "has got to get ready to dismantle Indian Affairs out here in an orderly way." Under the present system First Nations are drowning in paper. "The Attorney General Sheila Fraser did a review. She was shocked and reported that the average First Nation, which is 500 people with probably five to 10 leaders doing all the work, has to prepare 162 different reports every year to the federal government."
First Nations face "huge challenges" to be ready, and Harcourt identifies three key things. "First, they've got to do a long-term vision through a comprehensive community plan (http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/bc/proser/fna/ccp/ccp_e.html)," he says. He is excited about the results of a recent pilot project the Treaty Commission helped facilitate and sees these plans as the foundation for successful self governance. Second on his list is the need to develop a government structure to replace the band council which is really a service-delivery body. And third is the need to build the human capacity to carry out these responsibilities.
Municipalities need to ante up, too, and Harcourt says the last five years have seen some municipalities take the lead on finding ways to share services and infrastructure with their Aboriginal neighbors.
"Business has got to up its game to genuine joint ventures and partnerships with First Nations." And he doesn't let the public off the hook either, stressing that the work of "cross-cultural understanding" must continue.
His final message? "I remain optimistic because I think we're going to do it, but more importantly, we have to do it. We have to have the new relationship and treaties are a huge means towards that end."
Back on the ground
Whatever unfolds over the next six months, 2007 seems set to become a watershed year in the history of treaty-making in B.C. The outcome will have significant implications for every one of us, even though the complex drama playing out in the headlines remains far away from most of our daily lives.
In concluding this series I returned to Leq'á:mél territory for a conversation closer to the ground, this one at my picnic table with a friendly young man sporting a grim reaper tattoo on one brawny shoulder and a clown on the other. Jason Glover is 20 years old and graduated from high school in 2005. He works for Stó:lō Nation doing cultural tours in the Coqualeetza longhouse and says his mom, Chief Alice Thompson, is his biggest role model.
He grew up on the Leq'á:mél reserve. "When I was a kid this was a really good place to live," he says. "Everyone was so together and you could always depend on each other. But over the years with drugs and alcohol and the effects of residential school being passed from the parents who went to residential school on to their kids and on to their kids' kids, eventually it just sent our reserve into a downward spiral. Now if you don't have your car parked right beside your dog, your gas tank might be empty in the morning."
Why does he choose to stay? "This home needs more people to fight for it," he says and adds that even though there are conflicts between families, whenever there is an emergency everyone comes together. He'd like to see the community get back to being that way all the time.
How does he feel about treaties? "There is a negative vibe to treaty," he says. "The treaties today are a lot different from the old ones in the rest of Canada, and sure someone's flashing a high million in your face, but I still don't think much of treaty and it's going to stay that way until the federal and provincial governments can prove that they're going to continue to work alongside First Nations fairly."
He is angry about what has happened to his people, and says that many of the youth in his generation are angry too. "I try to control it because I know if it comes out the wrong way, it's not going to benefit anybody." Lots of things make him angry. The way some of the teachers he had in school expected First Nations students to fail. The way in the summer you can't see across the river because of the smog from Vancouver. The way that when people drive past skid row, the first person they point at is the First Nations person.
Last year in a geography course at UCFV, he encountered a non-Aboriginal professor and another student who "saw things the way First Nations do."
"I was just blown away," he says. "It's been so rare to hear non-Native people talking like Native people have been talking for the past 100 years. It's a relief. It's reassuring to know that someone outside of our community cares."
The experience made him feel like things might be slowly turning around. "As time goes on First Nations communities and non-First Nations communities are going to end up having to walk together on the same path," he says, "and why not try and learn something from each other so we can walk together in a positive way? That's the idea of the new relationship, I think, being able to walk forward together."
A long walk
Last fall, I walked out my back door to explore whether a new relationship with Aboriginal people was unfolding in the Fraser Valley. The ensuing journey was often as sobering as it was hopeful. As the Delgamuukw decision says: "We are all here to stay." And as Jason Glover said at the picnic table in my backyard: "It's going to be a long walk to get First Nations and newcomers to see eye to eye."
The much-needed systemic change promised by treaties remains in the future, and the pain of the past continues to color many lives, but out here in Leq'á:mél territory, I think the ground beneath our feet is beginning to shift.