Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Action And Accountability Are What is Needed

The B.C. Process fails at settling issues of Aboriginal title in practice. This could be cynically summarized as “Yes, Aboriginal title exists. But, the British Columbian government cannot do anything else besides proofing the existence of the title”. In other words, the problem of the B.C. Treaty Process is that it only deal with grievances related to Aboriginal claims to land where, in the perspective of the Crown, the question of title had not been addressed through historical treaties. Thus, many First Nation communities have found process as a means to extinguish Aboriginal title in exchange for rights and benefits outlined in the process itself. They argue that this concept would only achieve certainty or reach agreements never to assert certain rights, making their rights inalienable.

Many legal experts and Aboriginal right activists have called for the British Columbian and federal governments to listen to will of First Nation peoples and fix the errors identified, particularly the constitutionally required consultation with First Nation peoples. Motivated mainly by the search for a quick fix, the British Columbian government created the B.C. Treaty Process in order to finally reach agreements with First Nations over Aboriginal tittle. However, the “constitutionally required consultation with First Nations” is unacceptably flawed and have fell well short of title settlement standard.

I view the B.C. Treaty Process as a great opportunity for British Columbia to fundamentally change the way it approaches Aboriginal rights in decision-making. But it has to stop aiming for the lowest bar. The derailment can be trace to the mentality of the British Columbian government, rooted in federal government, carries with it the notions that have long viewed Indigenous peoples with a sort of colonial contempt, treating engagement and rights as a burden rather than a constitutional duty. More often than not, this resulted in British Columbian government seeking to do the least possible, and nothing more. This approach relied on the hope that minimally consulted First Nation groups would not bring their grievances to court, and the cost of litigation discourages many First Nation groups from suing.

Actions Are What Count. Just Recommendations is Hollow

Many First Nations expressed the view the British Columbian government have already made up their mind to extinguish title in favour of government before any treaty talks and consultations. This allow the government to continue developing lands at the expense of First Nation communities. In spite of attempts to follow directions set by B.C. Process, the British Columbian government fails to meet the mark.

In my opinion, I believe that B.C. Treaty Process would be a meaningful consultation can avoid a charge of infringement to adequately consult by obtaining the consent of the First Nation communities. Aiming for minimum means that the starting point of process should be the recognition of the inherent rights for First Nation peoples to make decisions about what happens to their homelands and territories.

I believe that the absence of mutual accountability enables all levels of Canadian government and other institutions to continue to run roughshod over First Nation rights, treaties and promises. The courts, with all of their expense, delay and imperfection, become the place of last resort to prove or test infringement of rights. Actions are what count! Recommendations is ‘hollow’ without action and accountability.

This is an opinion article; the views expressed by me. Follow him on Twitter: @hkpltw And @Terry_Terence97

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