About First Nations Treaty Process

Treaties follow a six stage process in collaboration with the British Columbia Treaty Commission. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation leads the province's participation in Final Agreement and advanced Agreement-in-Principle negotiations, interim measures and other agreements.

Treaty negotiations in British Columbia are needed to:

  • meet legal obligations to clearly define the rights and responsibilities of both the Province and First Nations. They provide a cooperative way to resolve issues and help avoid future conflict in the courts;
  • address these economic and social injustices by providing First Nations with the authority to manage their own affairs and become less dependent on government support; and
  • bring certainty to land and resource rights, treaties will maximize opportunities for economic development and job creation for all British Columbians.

Treaties accomplish many goals that benefit First Nations, government and all citizens of British Columbia through:

  • reconciliation of First Nations, B.C. government and citizen interests;
  • certainty to land and resources ownership and resource management;
  • clarity on hunting and fishing rights for all British Columbians;
  • reduced conflict over land and resources through timely and practical resolution;
  • encouragement of investment and new opportunities through business, jobs and participation in the provincial economy;
  • protection of Indigenous culture through language, songs, stories, ceremonies, values, beliefs and way of life;
  • greater self-reliance for First Nations communities to close social and economic gaps;
  • providing tools to build strong and workable government-to-government relationships;
  • opportunities to build partnerships for mutual economic and social benefit.

What is a Treaty?

A treaty is a negotiated agreement that sets out clearly defined rights and responsibilities of First Nations and the federal and provincial governments. It is also a full and formal expression of reconciliation between First Nations and government. Treaty-making is used to build new relationships with First Nations based on the principles of mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation. Another significant goal is to establish certainty over British Columbia Crown land and resources. Treaties clearly define the rights and responsibilities of all parties in the negotiations. Treaties will also lead to greater self-reliance for First Nation communities, and help to close the social and economic gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous British Columbians.

There are three parties at each treaty table: the First Nation(s), Canada and British Columbia. Each party is represented by a negotiating team.

The details of matters under negotiation may vary, depending on demographics, location and so on. Many topics are common to all treaty tables, such as:

  • Land
  • Land Title
  • Forest and Resources
  • Access
  • Governance
  • Capital Transfer
  • Roads and Rights of Way
  • Fisheries
  • Wildlife and Migratory Birds
  • Environmental Assessment and Protection
  • Intergovernmental Relations
  • Taxation

How does the treaty process work?

First Nations file a statement of intent. The British Columbia Treaty Commission coordinates the treaty table consisting of negotiators represented by the First Nation, the Province and federal government. Once the parties are ready to negotiate, topics are raised for discussion at the treaty table negotiation sessions. Each treaty negotiation goes through the six stages of negotiations toward Final Agreement and Treaty implementation.

The Treaty negotiation six stage process

Treaties follow a six stage process in collaboration with the British Columbia Treaty Commission. The Ministry leads the province's participation in Final Agreement and advanced Agreement-in-Principle negotiations, interim measures and other agreements with First Nations and the federal government on lands and resources, governance, fiscal relations and capacity-building. It works with Indigenous leaders, government agencies, industry, local government and the public to build support for negotiated agreements and coordinates the cross-government implementation of treaties and other agreements as they are concluded.

Role of the Provincial Government

British Columbia must be involved in treaty negotiations because many issues fall under provincial jurisdiction, most importantly Crown land and resources. The report of the British Columbia Claims Task Force (1991). British Columbia's role in treaty negotiations is to:

  • represent and protect the interests of all British Columbians;
  • ensure that treaties work in British Columbia;
  • ensure that treaties are fair and affordable;
  • ensure that Canada lives up to its legal and constitutional obligations;
  • ensure that all interested parties have the opportunity to be consulted.

What is self-government?

Self-government refers to the ability of Indigenous people to govern themselves within the framework of the Canadian Constitution. Through self-government, Indigenous people make decisions about matters that affect them, such as health, education and child welfare. Self-government may also include the ability of Indigenous governments to raise revenues (e.g., fees and taxation), to manage lands and resources on lands, and to negotiate with other governments on such matters as joint service delivery and economic development.