History of Treaties in B.C.
In 1991, the British Columbia Claims Task Force, which established the BC treaty process, recommended the creation of a British Columbia Treaty Commission to facilitate the negotiation process.
When British Columbia joined Canada in 1871, the Province did not recognize Aboriginal title so there was no need for treaties. However, the Province did accept the rights of Aboriginal people as written in the Canadian Constitution and recognized the federal government’s authority to make laws for Aboriginal people and their lands.
James Douglas of the Hudson’s Bay Company made 14 purchases of First Nations land between 1850 and 1854 at the request of the British Crown. These transactions are known as the Douglas Treaties.
The federal government also negotiated treaties with eight First Nations in northeastern British Columbia to help resolve problems related to the Klondike Gold Rush. Signed in 1899, Treaty 8 released Aboriginal title to the treaty area in exchange for land and other benefits.
Over the years, First Nations tried to engage in treaty negotiations with both the federal and provincial governments. It wasn’t until 1990 that Canada, British Columbia and the Nisga'a Tribal Council agreed to negotiate a treaty together. These negotiations resulted in the Nisga'a Treaty, implemented in 2000. Although not part of the current B.C. treaty process, the Nisga'a negotiations adopted a similar framework and created the first modern-day treaty in British Columbia.
B.C. Treaty Process
During the time of the Nisga’a negotiations, the provincial government created a task force to develop a treaty-making process for the province. Canada, British Columbia and the First Nations Summit all accepted the task force’s recommendations to create the current six-stage B.C. treaty process and the B.C. Treaty Commission to oversee the process.