Please find below answers to frequently asked questions related to Treaty negotiations...
If you have general questions please feel free to contact us. For specific questions regarding negotiations in your community please engage your respective treaty offices. Contact information for all of the treaty offices can be found here.
Why are we negotiating treaties? The purpose of a treaty is to finally settle land claims and receive a fair deal from Canada and BC for the loss of our lands. A Treaty will be constitutionally protected. We will no longer have to go to court to prove our claim to land and resources.
Why don't we just go to court? Over the decades various court cases have further advanced Aboriginal rights and title. These court cases form what is known as case law. Case law is the reported decision of appeals courts or other courts that make a new interpretation of law and therefore set a precedent. Every land claim brought to court is subject to interpretation of law. The court will examine evidence and it is up to the claimant to prove their claim. Litigation is lengthy, costly and is not guaranteed. The ruling in a court case is also limited in scope and is not as comprehensive as a treaty. Modern treaties remain Canada’s most comprehensive means of achieving reconciliation with First Nations. While the Tsilhqo’tin Nation was awarded Aboriginal Title, Implementing the first Aboriginal Title declaration, the Tsilhqo'tin Decision, will still require negotiations with the Crown. What is a Final Agreement? It is a Treaty. A Treaty is legally binding. An Agreement-in-Principle tells us what will be in the treaty, but it is not a legal document. Terms identified in the Agreement-in-Principle are also subject to change or additions can be made throughout the course of Final Agreement negotiations.
What are Aboriginal Rights and Title? Aboriginal Rights are the right to hunt, fish and gather, or any other rights we exercised historically, prior to the arrival of Europeans. Aboriginal title is the inherent right to land or a territory. It is a collective, or sui generis, right that comes from a First Nations occupation and use of land. Various court decisions have contributed to the definition of Aboriginal title, not always to the agreement of First Nations.
Will we lose our Aboriginal Rights / Indian Status under a treaty? No. Aboriginal rights will not be extinguished. We will continue to be eligible for all programs and services available to Aboriginal people. We will continue to be Status Indians within the meaning of the Canadian Constitution. Our Aboriginal Rights as stated in section 35 of the Canadian Constitution will still exist. However, we will longer be governed by the Indian Act, we will establish self-government. While most of the Indian Act will be gone, some provisions will remain. Registration for Indian Status will remain the same. After treaty, parents can enroll their children to receive treaty benefits. Children can always opt out of the treaty when they have reached the age of majority.
What will happen if I chose not to be a part of the Treaty? Persons who do not register to be part of the treaty will not receive treaty benefits.
If we are getting a cash settlement, what happens when the money runs out? The cash settlement is not intended to pay for programs and services that currently exist, these services (as funded by Aboriginal Affairs, Health Canada and so forth) will continue. First Nations will still have access to the health benefits we currently receive, social housing and social assistance and education funding. A portion of the cash settlement will help the respective First Nations pay off their loan and any remaining funds can be used by the First Nation as they wish.
Why can't we negotiate for all of our traditional lands? There are many parties that claim rights in our territory, including other First Nations, private property owners, industry and the federal and provincial governments. This is why we need to negotiate. Negotiations need to resolve the interests of all parties. We can still use the traditional territory and will continue to be consulted on developments throughout the traditional territory. The lands offered as Treaty Settlement Lands will be owned outright by the First Nation.
Where do the negotiation loans come from and how will it be re-paid? The loan comes from Canada and BC through the BC Treaty Commission. The loan repayment is negotiated as part of the Final Agreement. If the people chose not to move beyond the Agreement-in-Principle or Final Agreement stage the band government is responsible to repay the loan. There will be no impact on the people in terms of individuals having to pay back the loan. There are nations who have walked away from the negotiating table who have yet to start repaying the loan.
Will we have to pay taxes? Yes, it is a federal government policy that under modern treaties, Aboriginal people will pay taxes. However, this only begins once a person earns a certain amount. Those who earn less, will in many cases, receive money back. The benefits of taxation for a First Nation are that taxes collected from the treaty lands will be paid to the First Nation government for the development of programs and services for the community. The ability to raise revenues through tax powers will be a fundamental element to self-government. We will also have the ability to raise tax revenue from non-members living or operating on our lands.