The Te’mexw Treaty Association (TTA) opened its doors and filed its Statement of Intent in 1994. The negotiations are in stage five of the six-stage process to finalize treaties. Each of the member Nations will vote on its own treaty and constitution. The treaties being negotiated by TTA on behalf of the member Nations with the federal and provincial governments deal with a wide range of issues, including governance, land, harvesting, resources, and fiscal matters. The TTA negotiations are making steady progress and have successfully resolved a number of complex issues.
This is an outline of the BC Treaty Commission’s six-stage treaty negotiation process.
STAGE 1 – STATEMENT OF INTENT TO NEGOTIATE
In this stage, the Statement of Intent (SOI) identifies the First Nation entity (in this case – the TTA) that intends on entering the treaty process. It outlines the territories and waters to be negotiated, over which the Nations will have treaty rights.
STAGE 2 – READINESS TO NEGOTIATE
Within 45 days of accepting the SOI, the BC Treaty Commission convenes a meeting between the parties. At the meeting, the parties demonstrate they have a commitment to negotiate, a qualified negotiator, sufficient resources, a mandate, and a strong process. When the parties have everything in place, the table is declared ready and a framework agreement can begin to be negotiated.
STAGE 3 – NEGOTIATION OF A FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT
This can be seen as a Table of Contents for the specific treaty. The subjects to be negotiated are agreed upon and an estimated time frame is established.
STAGE 4 – NEGOTIATION OF AN AGREEMENT IN PRINCIPLE
In this stage, treaty negotiations begin on the major topics from the Framework Agreement. The goal is to reach an agreement on topics that will form the basis of the treaty. Rights and powers are identified relating to:
- land, water, and resources;
- structures and authorities of government;
- relationship of laws;
- regulatory processes;
- amending processes;
- dispute resolution;
- financial components;
- fiscal relations, and
- other topics.
STAGE 5 – NEGOTIATION TO FINALIZE A TREATY
In this stage, outstanding issues from Stage 4 are resolved: chapter language is finalized, land and cash offers are completed, appendices are fleshed out, technical and legal issues are resolved and the treaty is ready to move on to ratification. In the ratification process, the treaty is put to a community vote.
STAGE 6 – IMPLEMENTATION OF THE TREATY
If the treaty is ratified and signed by all three parties, implementation of the treaty will happen in agreed-upon phases that are tailored to the individual Nation as per their specific agreement. Over a period of time, all aspects of the treaty would be implemented in phases, on the Effective Date the Nation would be able to exercise its new treaty rights.
The Indian Act is the comprehensive piece of legislation that has governed the relationship between First Nation peoples and the Canadian government since 1876. It governs most aspects of life for those considered “Indians” and “bands” under the Act, including lands, resources, wills, education, band membership, elections and even who is considered an “Indian”. The Indian Act is largely considered a paternalistic and discriminatory piece of legislation, and despite many amendments over the years, it remains so to this day.
The Te’mexw Treaty Association (TTA) is negotiating modern treaties on behalf of its five member Nations: Beecher Bay (SC’IA⁄NEW), Malahat, Songhees, Snaw-Naw-As, and T’Sou-ke. The term “modern treaty” is used to distinguish the new treaties being negotiated from the Douglas Treaties signed in the 1850s. Whether or not members decide to vote for a modern treaty, the Douglas Treaty rights will remain.
First Nations have the right to govern themselves according to their own traditions, free of the Indian Act. Through self-government Nations can take steps towards becoming self-determining and self-sufficient.
Hunting, Fishing and Gathering
The Te’mexw member Nations have been hunting and harvesting food from the lands and waters in their territories for thousands of years. Protecting this right is integral to continuation of their cultures.
Lands and Waters
The lands and waters have deep spiritual, economic, and political significance for our member Nations. Their traditional territories are integral to their identity and survival as distinct Nations.
Modern treaties would bring many changes to the way the Nations, BC, and Canada interact with one another. This includes how the parties would contribute to the newly defined economies. Knowing the financial impacts of the treaty process is an essential step to understanding how it can benefit each party.