[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.]
The BC Federation of Labour is taking its support for the Nisga'a deal on the road. Federation president Ken Georgetti was in Victoria Wednesday night as a guest speaker at a Victoria Labour Council (VLC) meeting, the first of several appearances he'll be making over the next few weeks to drum up support for the historic agreement with BC natives. "Like any negotiations, you have to look at the results of the package," Georgetti says. "You can't satisfy everyone on every point. This is a good agreement for the Nisga'a people and for all people in BC."
A motion was put forward at Wednesday's VLC meeting for the council to also officially endorse the deal and encourage all members to support it, but the motion was tabled to give members more time to read the treaty. Negotiators for the province, Canada and the Nisga'a Tribal Council wrapped up 29 months of treaty negotiation in July, following the 1996 agreement-in-principle to resolve the Nisga'a land claim. The deal gives about 6,000 Nisga'a people 1,930 sq. km of traditional land in the Nass River Valley, $190 million and a form of self-government. The agreement must still be approved by the Nisga'a people (they vote in November) before going to the legislature and the House of Commons. "This is one of the most important economic and social developments of the last century," Georgetti says. "The federation has been on record for 30-plus years supporting the resolution of land claims."
Georgetti says he's somewhat surprised by the arguments of those who don't support the deal, especially those people who claim there was not enough consultation. Labor representatives were involved in consultations along the way, he says, and were present at the signing of the agreement in August. "If we had that kind of consultation with NAFTA or the MAI, things would have been a lot different," Georgetti says. Georgetti says the deal will create economic security, certainty and ensure the well-being of families and communities throughout BC. With the bulk of the settlement money coming from the federal government, Georgetti says there won't be huge financial costs to BC residents, and likely will be savings in the future once the expensive provisions of the Indian Act no longer apply.
"It's a fair agreement that will stand the test of time," he says. As for calls for a referendum in BC before ratification, Georgetti dismisses the notion, just as the provincial government does. "It's never a good experience when the majority votes on the rights of the minority," he says. The Nisga'a treaty was the first one reached in BC this century. Fifty-one other bands in the province are currently negotiating treaties.