Saturday, November 29, 2008

Salmon issues prove to be sticking point in Treaty negotiations

The BC Treaty Commission pointed its finger at the Federal Government this week, suggesting that the path of progress in the negotiations is being held up by the issue of salmon allocation, which the Treaty Commission has no say over.

Treaty Commissioner Robert Phillips detailed his frustration over the federal mandates of DFO, which have not so far provided any direction for the Commission to work with in regards to local First Nations and fisheries negotiations.

The issue of fishing has become a huge stumbling block to the progress of the negotiations, a sample of which was presented in Thursday's Daily News.

'Salmon sticking point for treaty'
Future allocations of resource said to be stumbling block to deals
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Pages one and five

The BC Treaty Commission claimed Wednesday that the federal government is holding back treaty negotiations because the organization does not have permission to forward salmon allocations as part of any deal.

And one commissioner said such hold-ups are hurting negotiations with North Coast First Nations.

"Some of the issues that (North Coast First Nations) have are the federal fisheries mandate - that there is no mandate on the side of the Department of Fisheries - and, basically, we have hit a wall on the issue of fisheries negotiations for the three parties," said treaty commissioner Robert Phillips.

In its annual report, the commission said that progress was much too slow on treaty negotiations because First Nations expectations on the deals "appear much greater than currently supported by either the government of Canada or B.C."

Phillips said fishing had become a huge stumbling block.

Because of the cultural, social and food value of fisheries and the lack of willingness from the federal government to consider fisheries as part of the negotiation process, negotiations did not appear to be moving as fast as they could, said the commission.

Of particular note, the commission said that it would have to progress with separate negotiations for each Tsimshian tribe so that individual requirements of each community would be addressed.
In the annual report, acting Chief Commissioner Jody Wilson said that the treaty commission had requested, and would insist, that the federal government set a firm timetable for obtaining a fish mandate and for finding a solution that recognizes and protects the historic and continuing aboriginal right to fish.

Phillips said that negotiations with Haida Nation, which are currently at 'stage three' are ongoing and they are working on land use planning. The report noted the Council of the Haida Nation and British Columbia had been negotiating land protection, forestry and revenue sharing, and the Haida role in land use planning and decision-making.

"With Haida of course, there are some negotiations going. Hopefully, they will get to an agreement in principle at some time," said Phillips.

When it comes to Lax Kw'alaams, the commission said that there has been no tripartite activity at this table since mid-2005 when the Treaty Commission accepted the Statement of Intent of the Allied Tribes of Lax Kw'alaams.

Although the First Nation and British Columbia has completed its 'stage two' readiness requirements, Canada is still reviewing the impact of fisheries litigation brought by Lax Kw'alaams on potential treaty negotiations.

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