For most people, if they think of Indians at all, believe Indians just need economic development. But Indians want more, like recognition to be a third level of govt, which the Nisga got. But the Nisga were considered an unusual case. Most won't get that because there isn't public support, or even knowledge about Indians or the treaty process. Any premier in BC is going to have to spend huge amounts of political capital to get even a few treaties done. So far $500 million has been spent with few results.
I would advise for Indians to wait for NDP to get elected in 2013. Carole James, former NDP leader, who is running again, she called BC "stolen land". She is also part Indian herself but she has many white fellow travelers. Management loves giving away the store because they like being Santa Claus too. When I was at BCIT in the mid 1980s, the instructor said in the first negotiations with the school, the union asked for the store and they got it. He was happy. The 1970s aren't likely coming back though.
Most Indians won't benefit from any process other than becoming Canadians, which is what most of us support for people living in Canada. Anything else is too complicated. Speaking of complicated, I read in the Sun this week in their series on immigrants in Metro Vancouver-there's too many, that Indians have their own category, they are considered neither a visible minority nor an ethnic group by StatsCan. That is three categories for non-white people in Canada. Wow. I didn't even know that. Good luck and thanks for all the fish, as smart dolphins might say. On the internet, no one knows if you're a dolphin you know.
Opinion: Treaty process needs a new look (external - login to view)
Interim measures could ease problems while the negotiation process works its way to conclusion
By Gordon Gibson, Special to The Vancouver Sun October 19, 2011
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Premier Christy Clark, shown receiving a ceremonial blanket before addressing a First Nations Summit in North Vancouver in June, needs to ‘seize the day’ by linking job creation with the treaty negotiation process.
Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost, PNG files
Chief commissioner Sophie Pierre is so right to castigate governments for a lack of progress in the B.C. treaty process. It is an absolute disgrace. After 20 years and negotiating expenditures of an incredible half a billion dollars of unaffordable borrowed money by the Indian side alone, almost nothing has been achieved.
For the past three-and-one-half years I have been involved in negotiations for the Gitxsan Treaty Society. One of my Gitxsan colleagues has been at that table for 20 years, during which time he has seen 30 government negotiators come and go. I marvel at the patience of my friends.
For the governments in this process, another year is another year, ho hum. For the Indian side of the table in B.C., while it varies by region, it is in general another year of poverty, unemployment, inadequate education, widespread substance abuse and even suicide. I have not the slightest doubt that the major blame for this lies with the mainstream society and you can get as many details as required in my book, A New Look at Canadian Indian Policy. And the guilt is not merely historic; it is current.
The Gitxsan are a nation 13,000 strong with 33,000 sq. km of traditional territory in northwestern B.C. We have watched helplessly as literally billions of dollars of timber and minerals have been trucked out of our territory in the past 50 years. This has not yielded a dime for us and we have been frozen out of our traditional ability to harvest our own timber.
We desperately want a reconciliation agreement and economic development. The leading legal victory in this field known as Delgamuukw was our case. We are highly motivated and have a great team, but with all of that, after 20 years we cannot make any progress at all. There is a total lack of urgency — total — on the government side.
As says commissioner Pierre, the treaty process must be dramatically improved. That will take time and a new dedication on all sides, and it should begin now.
In the meantime, there is something else that can be done, right now.
Treaties are very good, and required eventually for legal certainty. But in the meantime what is really needed in Indian country is jobs. Work brings dignity, fosters education and underpins the family. But work requires solid, sustainable economic development.
There is no lack of opportunity. Just in our own territory, we have two large projects (a resource toll road and a hydro facility) that are obvious profitable investments, no pie-in-the-sky. We have solid, smaller projects being considered by our just-created Gitxsan
Development Corporation. We also have no money. This also is the case across Indian country — opportunity rich, cash poor.
What to do? Consider first that a part of every treaty settlement is a federal payment known as a capital transfer. Governments think of it as for economic development, though it is also richly justified as compensation for the past. Based on precedent, these transfers will easily total many billions of dollars in B.C. But they aren’t available until a treaty is signed — and that moves at a glacial pace while first nation kids grow old in poverty. We need an interim solution, a jump start.
That solution could be the creation of an Interim Treaty Investment Authority (ITIA), initially funded by say $1 billion. The purpose of the authority would be to grant loans — not gifts — to first nations for approved projects. For approval, a project would have to be demonstrably feasible to a third-party, independent board of business people.
This rigorous vetting is essential. Across Canada and under the auspices of the Department of Indian Affairs, so-called “economic development” projects have a richly deserved reputation as local boondoggles, too often enriching only consultants and chiefs and councils.
ITIA will be investing serious money, the patrimony of the tribe concerned. That money must be prudently used and the management of any projects must be professional.
Note the money would be loaned by governments. What is the security for repayment? The gold-plated security of a first charge on the eventual capital transfer. Booked in this manner, the funding will properly be seen as the investment it will be, and not a component of the government deficit in any given year.
This fund should be set up by Ottawa, but we have to take account of the bloated, slow-moving bureaucracy back there. British Columbia should start the ball rolling. Set up ITIA, give it initial funding, and then start pressuring the feds to live up to their responsibilities accumulated by 100 years of the disgrace of the Indian Act.
This will lead not just to reconciliation but also to great provincial development.
In northwestern B.C., the Gitxsan alone will immediately be seeking over $25 million which we will then lever into hundreds of jobs and construct a crucial new link in the Northern Gateway. This is the kind of vision Premier Clark has been looking for. Premier, seize the day!
Gordon Gibson is public policy analyst and works for the Gitxsan Treaty Society.