The Nisga'a Treaty will see the Nisga'a move into the mainstream of Canadian society and become more self-reliant, instead of remaining separate from other Canadians and economically hamstrung by the Indian Act. Nisga'a Chief Joe Gosnell said it best when he stated that the Nisga'a people "are not negotiating our way out of Canada. From our standpoint, we are negotiating our way back into Canada." Under the Indian Act, this is a virtual impossibility. Natives have special privileges that set them apart from other Canadians (and have not allowed them to prosper anyway), while they are denied the tools to build their economies and achieve self-reliance.
This bureaucratic, failed system is costing us dearly. The federal government alone spends more than $800 million every year in BC on bureaucracy and programs for aboriginals. In the absence of treaty settlements, this cost will continue, while aboriginal people remain separate from other British Columbians in a century-old, discredited cycle of enforced dependency. In short, we will remain a society divided. Treaties are a way to say goodbye to separation, division and inequality. The Nisga'a Treaty gives the Nisga'a land, resources and their own municipal-style government. These are not ends in themselves, but rather the means by which the Nisga'a can build a stronger, more self-reliant community, all within the framework of the Canadian Constitution, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code and all federal and BC laws of general application.
The Indian Act will no longer apply. The Nisga'a government will be comparable to a municipal government, with some extra powers relating to public services, cultural affairs and resource management. Non-Nisga'a can own private property within the boundaries of Nisga'a lands. Private land within those boundaries that is today owned by non-Nisga'a will remain private; the owners will not be subject to Nisga'a laws on their property. The Nisga'a are free to sell parts of their land to non-Nisga'a if they so wish. Non-Nisga'a who do own such land will have more rights (backed up by Nisga'a obligations in the treaty than any non-aboriginal person has on Indian Reserves today.
Just like a municipal government, the Nisga'a government will be able to operate wholly owned commercial corporations, which would receive the same tax treatment as a municipal corporation. The Nisga'a government will have the same income tax and property tax status as other municipalities. Like any municipality, the Nisga'a government will receive transfer payments from the provincial and federal governments to help provide services, including water, sewers, education and health care. But unlike municipalities, the Nisga'a will see those transfers reduced as their own revenue increases.
The Nisga'a will be able to invest in needed infrastructure and businesses. They'll be able to license commercial operations which make use of the resources on Nisga'a lands. They will be able to enter into joint ventures with non-Nisga'a business partners. The Nisga'a will also begin paying taxes to the BC and federal governments, and let's not forget the cash settlement is not an ongoing obligation, unlike all payments and programs associated with the Indian Act. After 15 years, that's it.