[S.I.S.I.S. note: The BC Treaty Process continues to deteriorate. Even "moderate" bands involved are increasingly disillusioned with this extinguishment and termination instrument. This recent full page Communique from the Sechelt Indian Band in the February edition of Kahtou magazine is a case in point.]
The Sechelt Land Claim Committee announced today its intentions following the success of the native litigants in Delgamuukw (Supreme Court of Canada, December 11, 1997). "We are faced with an unacceptable situation at the bargaining table. The provincial negotiators kept taking items off the table that had been included in the framework. Our people have been forced to take these steps," said Chief Garry Feschuk, Sechelt's Chief Negotiator. "The province must wake up to the reality of what our negotiating team's mandate is as well as what the Supreme Court is telling them", Chief Feschuk said.
For some time now, the Sechelt Indian Band has been generally regarded as having the most advanced negotiation within the BC Treaty Commission process. We were seen as the most likely to reach Stage 5 first. "But that was something of a myth," pointed out Chief Garry Feschuk, Sechelt Chief Negotiator. "The truth is that, given the intransigent Federal and Provincial positions, we were at a standoff." The major stumbling block was put in place at a meeting held with the Honourable John Cashore, Minister of Native Affairs, on October 30, 1997. There, the Minister told the Sechelt representatives that the Province would not budge from what he called its "bottom line positions". Minister Cashore told the Sechelts that the Province would never agree to share resource revenues, and he insisted that Sechelt, the only self-governing Band in Canada, place all its lands under Provincial jurisdiction. He also indicated that no individual negotiations on the payment of taxes would be permitted; to get a Treaty you would have to fall in line with the Nisga'a AIP "8 & 12 formula" regardless of your circumstances.
"We could not believe that the Minister was trying to box us into an unacceptable corner without any give on the government side, while expecting Sechelt to give on everything," Chief Feschuk said. The Sechelt Land Claim Committee congratulates its Gitskan and Wet'suwet'en brothers and sisters fo their great legal victory which is now providing the Sechelt with legal opportunity. As a result, the so-called "bottom line positions" of the Province cannot possibly endure. "A huge obstacle of successful Treaty-making has been removed by Delgamuukw," commented Chief Feschuk. After this decision, it can no longer be a question of the Province's refusing to share resource revenues with native people. It may be more germane to consider on what possible legal basis the Province is plundering these resources 100% every day.
After this decision, the Province must surely abandon its starry-eyed notion of asserting jurisdiction over S.91(24) lands. As Chief Justice Lamer noted in the judgement:
"the judges in the court below noted that separating federal jurisdiction over Indians from jurisdictions over their lands wold have most unfortunate results - the government vested with primary constitutional responsibility for securing the welfare of Canada's aboriginal peoples would find itself unable to safeguard one of the most central of native interests - their interests in their lands."The question of taxation of native people should be referred back to where it belongs: the national level. "They've been trying to inflict a new injustice on my people," said Chief Feschuk, "In order for us to be recompensed for past injustices the principle is wrong, and it won't work. Let Jane Stewart and Phil Fontaine deal with the national issues." The Sechelt Land Claim Committee, mandated by the Band membership, now wish to move forward to take positive advantage fo the apparent removal of the impediments to a fair Treaty. We have instructed the Band lawyers, Snarch and Allen to apply to court for a declaration that our people still hold aboriginal title to the Sechelt Traditional territory (approximately the area known as the "Sunshine Coast"). "We need to establish this important starting point," stated Chief Feschuk.
Once the step has been taken, we want to demonstrate to the public of British Columbia that they need have nothing to fear from dealing fairly and honourably with native Treaty concerns. It is our intention to show that those predicting doom and gloom on account of Delgamuukw are wrong. We intend to show that, on the contrary, Treaties are NOW "do-able"-perhaps for the first time. "As the Chief Justice said," summarized Chief Feschuk, "We're all here to stay, and Sechelt has a young, growing population that has no interest in economic stagnation. We need jobs, economic opportunities, the chance to participate in increasing prosperity. My people are not just looking for a cheque. We want to fully SHARE in British Columbia's strong future in the 21st century."
Sechelt Indian Band
Box 740, Sechelt BC VON 3AO
Telephone: (604) 885-2273
Fax: (604) 885-3490
Full text of December 11, 1997 ruling: http://kafka.uvic.ca/~vipirg/SISIS/clark/97delrul.html Index of Delgamuukw/Gitksan articles, analysis, and commentary: http://kafka.uvic.ca/~vipirg/SISIS/clark/gitksan.html Background information on Delgamuukw case: http://kafka.uvic.ca/~vipirg/SISIS/clark/scchoax.html