South coast treaty going to local vote

More than a year after negotiators finished their work, the federal government has formally approved a treaty with the Tla'amin Nation.

With negotiators looking on

More than a year after negotiators finished their work, the federal government has formally approved a treaty with the Tla’amin Nation north of Powell River on B.C.’s south coast.

A majority vote by about 1,000 people in the reserve community, previously known as Sliammon, would clear the way for B.C.’s fifth modern-day treaty agreement. The fourth, with the Yale First Nation in the Fraser Canyon, still awaits approval by the House of Commons before taking effect.

The Tla’amin treaty includes 6,405 hectares of provincial Crown land, added to the community’s original six reserves totalling 1,917 hectares. Ottawa is to provide $29.7 million over 10 years, plus economic development funding of $6.9 million and a fishing vessel fund of $250,000 for participation in commercial fisheries.

As with other treaties, Tla’amin settlement lands would convert to fee simple ownership and the Indian Act would no longer apply. The agreement also includes transfer of two small properties., one near the Powell River ferry dock and another on Savary Island, both subject to local land use rules.

Mary Polak, B.C.’s minister of aboriginal relations, said Ottawa’s long delay in moving the Tla’amin treaty forward is one of the holdups recently criticized by the B.C. Treaty Commission. Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre said earlier this month that if federal negotiators aren’t given enough authority to reach agreements in a reason, governments should consider winding up a process that is nearly 20 years along with more than a billion dollars spent on negotiations alone.

The Tla’amin treaty would release 471 hectares of Crown land from the agricultural land reserve, a provision that proved controversial in the Tsawwassen treaty. Polak said the land in question is forested and has never been farmed.

Since the Nisga’a treaty was reached outside the treaty commission process in 2000, the commission has facilitated agreements with Tsawwassen First Nation in the Lower Mainland, Maa-Nulth First Nations group on Vancouver Island, the Yale First Nation and the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation near Prince George. A majority of Lheidli T’enneh members rejected their agreement in 2007.

The 220-member Yekooche First Nation in northwestern B.C. has finalized a treaty, but is waiting for federal approval of its fishing rights.

The In-SHUCK-ch Nation near Harrison Lake also reached agreement in 2009, but one of its three communities withdrew and the other two are attempting to proceed.