[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.]
PEMBERTON -- A "historic next step" in B.C. treaty negotiations has taken place, as a road map for the first native land claim settlement in Vancouver's back yard was initialled by negotiators.
Officials for the In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua and the federal and provincial governments gave approval in principle yesterday to seven sections of what is likely to be the next native treaty for B.C. after the Nisga'a in northwestern B.C., and the first under the current negotiation process.
"The folks who live in the Lower Mainland -- not only are they not aware we're conducting treaty negotiations with In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua, I don't think they're aware of the In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua," said chief federal negotiator Robin Dodson.
"This treaty is going to be on their doorstep and it's going to take them by storm."
While native elders, other First Nations representatives and members of the public looked on, the three chief negotiators initialled sections of an agreement in principle which, if approved, would recognize the In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua's right to govern themselves, and to run their own police, court and child-protection systems and community correctional services.
The In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua talks are considered ground-breaking negotiations that could serve as a model for 51 other sets of treaty talks in B.C.
"We've reached a plateau that other First Nations have not yet, so in that regard it's a historic day," said Gerard Peters, chief negotiator for the In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua. "It's another step."
The seven chapters represent about a quarter of the agreement, which will likely be about 30 chapters long. Four other chapters were released for public discussion and another three were released earlier this year.
In a province still gripped by the novelty of the Nisga'a treaty -- negotiated under a separate process over the last 25 years -- an In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua pact will send a signal that native land claim settlements are "regular business," said Tom Isaac, B.C.'s chief negotiator.
The In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua number about 1,000, a few of whom live in four villages behind Whistler and Pemberton. A substantial number live elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.
A formal offer dealing with land, resources and cash will be made by the federal and B.C. governments this spring, putting negotiations "into the home stretch," said Dodson.
For Peters, land is the key. The In-SHUCK-ch N'Quat'qua are claiming over 6,000 square kilometres of land in two sections, including most of Garibaldi Park.
"The government is now making treaties because it wants to end all legal
challenges to its legitimacy and authority. Its aim was, and always has
been, to destroy us as sovereign nations, to dismantle our societies, to
kill our spiritual ways."
"...our intention is to continue until there is not a single Indian that has
not been absorbed into the body politic of Canada and there is no more
Indian Question. That is the whole purpose of our legislation."