(Kamloops, Shuswap Territory/August 3, 1998) The members of the Interior Alliance have always had great respect for the Nisga'a Nation and its leaders. We agreed with the late James Gosnell, when he told the First Ministers of Canada during the constitutional talks in the 1980's, that First Nations "own this land lock, stock and barrel."
It has been a long struggle for all First Nations to have our collective human rights as peoples respected by having our aboriginal title recognized and respected by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia. In the end it was the Supreme Court of Canada in their historic Delgamuukw decision on December 11, 1997 that forced the federal and provincial governments to acknowledge that aboriginal title exists in Canada and includes an economic component.
Now that the federal and provincial governments have succeeded in getting the Nisga'a Tribal Council leadership to give up their title and rights, both the federal and provincial governments have announced they intend to use the Nisga'a Final Agreement as a "template" with other First Nations in B.C. to eliminate ancestral aboriginal title and rights by replacing them with a new form of reduced and restricted treaty rights.
The Governments of Canada and British Columbia obviously intend to apply the Nisga'a Final Agreement as a model far beyond the Nass Valley. Therefore, the Interior Alliance has no choice but to publically speak put out on the contents of this "treaty", First Nations have opinions on the recognition and protection of aboriginal title and rights much like Canadians have opinions on Canadian Unity and Quebec Secession.
The Interior Alliance is already on record opposing the Nisga'a "Treaty" as a model, Chief Arthur Manuel said today "the Nisga'a Final Agreement will never be accepted as a template, or prototype, by the membership or leadership of the Interior Alliance. The Nisga'a model completely undermines the legal principles and framework for reconciliation of aboriginal title with Crown presence that the Supreme Court of Canada as set out in the Delgamuukw decision. Moreover, from our point of view the Nisga'a model is a gross violation of the Nisga'a's human rights as peoples within the meaning of international law, and we blame Prime Minister Chretien and Premier Glen Clark for taking advantage of the unequal bargaining power between the parties to that treaty."
Chief Manuel added, "Jean Chretien is guilty of using the 19th century approach just like United States President, Andrew Jackson. In the 1830's, the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the Cherokee Nation had title to their lands and internal sovereignty. President Jackson is reported to have said 'John Marshall has made his decision now let him enforce it.' The Cherokee were then marched out of their lands on a "Trail of Tears". In Canada today, history is repeating itself. Canada's Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Lamer issued the Delgamuukw decision last December. Now the head of the executive branch, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, is ignoring the head of the judicial branch about the nature and scope of aboriginal title and rights. I have no doubt we will see great harm come from them on the sad journey into the future the Nisga'a are now being told to embark on by the federal and provincial governments, and by some of their own leaders.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Chief Arthur Manuel
Office (250) 828-9789 Cell (250) 314-7179
Chairman, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council
Spokesperson, Interior Alliance