Saturday, April 20, 2013

The mystique of the B.C. First Nations

The mystique of the B.C. First Nations

December 7, 2027

Weekly Report Posted: November 19, 2012 00:16

The status of the First Nations (aboriginal) people of British Columbia is a long-standing problem that has become a major issue in recent years. First Nations were confined to tiny reserves that no longer provide an economic base. They were provided with inadequate education and discriminated against in numerous ways. In many areas they were excluded from restaurants and other establishments. Native people only gained the right to vote in 1960. They were prohibited from possessing alcohol, which rather than preventing problems with this drug, exacerbated them by fostering unhealthy patterns of consumption such as binge drinking.[citation needed] The lives of status Indians are still governed by the Indian Act. With the exception of what are known as the Douglas Treaties, negotiated by Sir James Douglas with the native people of the Victoria area, no treaties were signed in British Columbia. Many native people wished to negotiate treaties, but the province refused until 1990. Another major development was the 1997 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Delgamuukw v. British Columbia case that aboriginal title still exists in British Columbia.

60% of First Nations in British Columbia are aligned with the First Nations Summit. This bring a total of 58 First Nations, but only 20 are said to be in active-negotiations. Three Final Agreements have been settled, with one being rejected by Lheidli T’enneh in 2007. The other two, the Maa-nulth treaty group, a 5 Nuu-chah-nulth member group, and the Tsawwassen First Nation. Although these treaties have yet to be ratified by Parliament in Ottawa and Legislature in Victoria, neighboring First Nations are seeking to block these treaties in the courts. A group of Vancouver Island and some mainland First Nations, the WSANEC, Lekwungen, and Semiahmoo, are seeking to block to Tsawwassen First Nation treaty, claiming infringement on their rights and land titles. On the westcoast of Vancouver Island, the Ditidaht First Nation is doing the same against the Maa-nulth treaty group. The only treaty, the Nisga'a Treaty (1998) signed in recent years was negotiated outside of the current treaty process. There is considerable disagreement about treaty negotiations. Many non-indigenous are vehemently opposed to it. For indigenous, there is mounting criticism of extinguishment of Aboriginal title, continued assimilation strategies by attempting to change the indigenous peoples from nations to municipal style government. Therefore, a substantial number of First Nations governments consider the current treaty process inadequate and have refused to participate.

A November 2007 court ruling for the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation has called future participation in the process into question. The judge ruled that the Xeni Gwet'in could demonstrate aboriginal title to half of the Nemaia Valley, and that the province had no power over these lands. Under the BC treaty process, negotiating nations have received as little as 5% of their claimed land recognized. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, has called the court victory a "nail in the coffin" of the B.C. treaty process.

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