VANCOUVER, B.C. (March 13, 1998) -- Federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jane Stewart, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Dale Lovick and Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit Task Group met today and agreed to a joint review of the B.C. treaty process in light of the December 11, 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw. Also in attendance at the meeting was Assembly of First Nations Vice-Chief Herb George representing all First Nations in B.C.
At the meeting, the Ministers and First Nations leaders established a senior level committee to examine how the Delgamuukw decision affects the treaty process. Finding ways to expedite the reconciliation of the interests of Canada, British Columbia and First Nations is the top priority for all parties. The committee will be meeting over the next two months to improve the treaty process to achieve the agreements necessary for economic and social stability in B.C.
"The Delgamuukw decision provides opportunities for dialogue and debate on the B.C. treaty process," said Minister Stewart. "I am pleased to be part of a process that will allow governments, First Nations, third parties and other groups with a stake in treaty negotiations to consider its implications in partnership."
"The B.C. government is committed to achieving land-use certainty and creating jobs," said Minister Lovick. "I am very pleased to be working in partnership with my federal and First Nations counterparts to help streamline and improve negotiations in light of the Delgamuukw decision."
The process they follow to do so will necessarily involve finding solutions that allow the economy of B.C. to flourish while negotiating effective and workable treaty settlements.
"First Nations in this province require certainty just as much as business and government. The historic Delgamuukw decision gives us a unique opportunity to resolve how aboriginal title and rights co-exist with the rights of others in British Columbia," said Grand Chief Edward John, a member of the First Nations Summit Task Group.
Agreement was also reached on the critical importance of establishing dialogue with third parties, business leaders and the Treaty Negotiation Advisory Committee, which was established to provide advice to governments on treaty negotiations. As such, they also gave their full support to cooperative initiatives to foster constructive dialogue about the Delgamuukw decision, such as the annual Business at the Summit conference.
Mr. Danny Watts, who is Co-Chair of both the First Nations Summit and Business at the Summit, said, "We need to expand the dialogue already occurring through increased participation at events like Business at the Summit."
This yearly forum, sponsored by the First Nations Summit and a number of B.C. corporations, provides the opportunity for First Nations and business leaders to come together and discuss issues of mutual interest. This year's conference, scheduled for May 7, 1998, will focus on building partnerships in a post-Delgamuukw environment.
"The time has come to cut through red tape and deal with treaty matters in a more business-like way," said Brian Smith, Chair of B.C. Hydro and Co-Chair of Business at the Summit. "Business and First Nations share a common desire to create a stronger B.C. economy, new partnerships and new opportunities for investment and jobs."
The Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw sends a strong message to all Canadians to strengthen the relationship with Aboriginal people. As Chief Justice Antonio Lamer wrote, "Let us face it, we are all here to stay." The Court's decision also reaffirms that negotiation is the best way to reconcile the interest of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians to achieve certainty over the use and ownership of lands and resources.
For more information:
Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs
Tel: (250) 356-8283
Fax: (250) 356-2213
Toll free: (800) 880-1022