BC Treaty Commission Report does not reflect importance of Aboriginal title: Grand Chief Phillip

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip at press conference in July - Mychaylo Prystupa
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip at a UBCIC press conference in Vancouver in July - photo by Mychaylo Prystupa

First Nations groups say the most recent BC Treaty Commission Report, which recommends First Nations resolve any issues relating to overlapping territories among themselves, “fails to reflect the importance of Aboriginal title,” according to a press release

"We are very disappointed to see the BCTC issue a report less than three months after the Supreme Court of Canada's Tsilhqot'in decision, providing the impression that the decision does not require wholesale change in the Crown's approach to negotiations with First Nations," said President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in the release."

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

“(The Tsilhqot'in decision) firmly establishes First Nations consent over decisions impacting our territories as a fundamental legal principle of Canadian constitutional law," said Chief Stewart Phillip.

The BCTC was created in 1992 to help negotiate between First Nations and the federal and provincial governments. In June, for the first time in the nation’s history, the Supreme Court affirmed Aboriginal title. The final decision granted the Tsilhqot’in First Nation title to an area of traditional land outside its reserve. More importantly, the events clarified how to properly prove Aboriginal title and when to ask when consent was required from the First Nations group.

The report looked at the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in decision, according to the BCTC release.  The case proved that the courts are not well equipped to deal with such issues and reach an understanding between competing interests of title, between First Nations and the Crown and between First Nations themselves.  

“As I have said before, the greatest expression of reconciliation is a modern treaty, fairly negotiated and honourably implemented,” said Chief Commissioner Sophi Pierr.

"What seems to be lost in the Report is that one plausible reason the Supreme Court of Canada made the declaration of Aboriginal Title it did was the Court's frustration and loss of patience in relation to the failed Treaty process,” stated UBCIC Vice-President Chief Bob Chamberlin.  

"For a Report to focus exclusively on overlaps, at this late date, after close to a quarter of a century of failed talks, and after First Nations have borrowed heavily in good faith to sit a table to resolve century old conflicts, is not reflective of the historic moment we are in, said UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer Kukpi7 Judy Wilson. “Title has been recognized, and it has a broad and territorial nature, and the processes and mandates for negotiations must change to reflect that reality."

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