Friday, March 6, 2009

The New Relationship in BC - The Next Step

I for one have to say that I was not all prepared for the BC Government to come out and offer to pass a law that will recognize aboriginal title and rights in BC. The Liberals are proposing to recognize First Nation governments, their right to the lands, and their right to a share in the revenues from the resources.

The TC has an article about this.

This is a monumental change, a change so fundamental in the relationship with aboriginal people that there is precedence anywhere else.

Gordon Campbell is the first Premier of BC that has decided to treat the First Nations with the respect they are due and is willing to sit down with them in real partnership.

This law will give aboriginal people real and concrete property rights through out the province. It will mean that the resource wealth of this province will be extracted only in complete partnership with First Nation governments.

Havign been on the aboriginal side of the table and having had to deal with government people that would not talk about the fundamental issue at hand - who owns the land and who gets to make decisions. Provincial and Federal governments of all stripes before the BC Liberals have always done everything they could to deny the existence of aboriginal people having continuity as self governing societies.

As an example, the Cultural Heritage Act states that every archeological artifact in the ground from before 1846 belongs to the Crown. These are specifically all the things that were here before there was any 'white' government.

First Nations have asked for generations "By what right do you claim to own the land?" "When did we agree to be disposed?". BC and Canada have avoided this question for generations, at one point going so far to ban lawyers for acting for First Nations on the issue. The Crown clearly has agreed it did not conquer the First Nations and could only gain control of the land if a Treaty has been signed. In BC this was not done and the "Indian Question" has remained in limbo.

The Williams case pushed the legal envelop a long way. The Xeni Gwichin had title to the land.

It takes huge courage for the provincial government to come forward and agree they will recognize First Nation governments and their title to the land.

I want to see this bill and see how it plays out. I am curious how the NDP will react to the proposed bill. I know that when I worked for First Nations and the NDP was in power, they were anything but friendly when it came to aboriginal title and rights issues.

I know many people in the right may be very concerned or upset by this, but I see this as the strongest blow for property rights in a long time in Canada. I also like the breaches it brings to the monolithic power of the Crown.

I like the Nisga'a Treaty because it gives a third level of government constitutional standing. It is the First Nations that are fighting for all of us to reduce the all encompassing power of the Crown.
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