[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]
It's been five years, $93 million and an escalating war of words with no treaty in site - but both sides insist the BC treaty process is on track. In releasing its annual report yesterday, the BC Treaty Commission took shots at the provincial government about foot-dragging, pressure to work faster and underfunding. In return, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dale Lovick released a letter accusing the commission of inaccuracies, inappropriate comments and a one sided interpretation of Delgamuukw, the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that may feel has turned treaty talks on their head.
Yet Lovick insisted in an interview he's "optimistic" and said: "We have made significant progress and come some distance in the last five years." He also admitted: "We've reached a point where we can't go on as we are. We must find a way to accelerate. We need to get land, resources and cash on the table and put them at the front end, instead of waiting years to iron out principles like 'Does aboriginal title exist?" The commission said in its report it was "surprised and deeply dismayed by the provincial cabinet's decision not to reappoint" Alec Robertson as chief commissioner when his term expired in May.
But Philip Steenkamp, the assistant deputy minister of aboriginal affairs, said "there was no decision not to reappoint the chief commissioner." He said the decision was "deferred" until the talks progress a bit faster. Miles Richardson, the acting chief commissioner, admitted "substantial obstacles" have cropped up. But 36 of the 51 bands in the treaty process are close to agreements-in -principle. Richardson conceded the delay in settling treaties is hard on industry, but is also hard on native bands, which have to pay back 80 per cent of the $93 million they've received to negotiate treaties.
Next year BC Indian bands will spend almost $30 million on treaty talks and it will be at least two or three years before the first treaty is signed, said Richardson. He maintains the total treaty funding for natives last year should have been $6 million to $7 million higher.