May 25/98: Editorial-Mess bodes ill for treaty process


Victoria Times-Colonist
May 25, 1998, p. A7

[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.]

There's no guarantee that your employer is going to want you forever. But when it takes five appointees from three governmental bodies to hire you in the first place, it ought to take more than one autocrat to get rid of you. BC Treaty Commission head Alec Robertson has a letter promising him a two-year extension on his contract, which expired May 13. But when fledgling Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dale Lovick took it to cabinet for the official stamp of approval, he didn't get it. Robertson has since angrily declined an invitation to stay on until June 30 while a few details are worked out.

The official word is that Lovick, taken by surprise a couple of weeks ago when the First Nations Summit rejected some recommendations on fixing up the troubled treaty process, decided he couldn't go ahead with a contract extension until those problems were resolved. Robertson, however, thinks it's more than coincidence that his ouster occurred just as the treaty commission was starting to go after the problems bogging the process down - one of the biggest being a chronic shortage of BC bureaucrats to handle the workload. The five-person commission, which oversees treaty negotiations, includes two appointees from the First Nations Summit and one each from the federal and provincial governments. Those four in turn choose a fifth to be chief commissioner. Robertson's contract extension was endorsed by both First Nations and Ottawa, and BC's unexplained change of heart is sparking concern.

There are currently 30 sets of treaty talks being overseen by the commission, far more than anticipated. Robertson says that with long-time aboriginal affairs minister John Cashore no longer in the loop and the deputy minister tied up in the separate Nisga'a talks, it's hard to find an expert anywhere. "The real problem with the process is supply and demand," says Robertson. "BC is under-resourced. it can't handle this many, and in fact would have difficulty handling very many at all." If Robertson can't handle the job, let's spend the time and money to find the person who can. But the circumstances sound far more like the Clark government deciding to shoot the messenger, and that can only be bad news for those caught up in this complex and ruinously slow process.

S.I.S.I.S. note: Alec Robertson is a former director of Daishowa, a Japanese based forest multi-national responsible for genocidal clearcutting of Lubicon lands. He came to his BCTC post from a senior partnership in Davis & Co, a giant resource based law firm.

Letters to the Times-Colonist:

Back to SIS