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B.C. signs agreement recognizing Haida Nation’s title over Haida Gwaii

First-of-its-kind agreement affirms Nation’s right over region, but not power over private land
Premier David Eby, Haida Nation Council President Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin and Haida Nation Council Vice-President Stephen Grosse (not pictured) signed the “Gaayhllxid/Gíihlagalgang ‘Rising Tide’ Haida Title Lands Agreement” in Haida Gwaii on April 14, 2024. (Government of B.C./YouTube)

The Haida Nation and B.C. government put pen to paper on Sunday (April 14) to sign a landmark agreement that will officially transfer governance over Haida Gwaii to the First Nation.

The Gaayhllxid/Gíihlagalgang “Rising Tide” Haida Title Lands Agreement affirms the Nation’s right to make decisions around treatment and use of the island region’s Crown land and resources. It does not apply to private lands, local governments, public infrastructure or existing land and resource interests.

Through it’s finalization Sunday, the agreement marks the first time B.C. has recognized Aboriginal title through negotiation rather than being forced to do so in the court system.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in Haida Gwaii Sunday, the Nation’s council president, Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), said the decades since B.C. became a province have been harmful and difficult for his people in many ways. But, he said, those years are a very short time in the entire ancient history of the Haida people.

“And today, we’re creating a new story in our history here, in our narrative and our relationship with Haida Gwaii and with British Columbia.”

Gaagwiis said the new chapter is one of recognition of the Nation’s inherent right to the land.

“It’s an acknowledgement of past denials and harms and fully embracing the truth.”

Premier David Eby presented a blanket from a Musqueam woman to Gaagwiis before speaking himself.

“This is a solemn and important recognition today and it is something that is so long overdue.”

Eby noted his small role in the Nation’s decades long fight for formal land recognition, but said when he looks back on his life one day he believes the agreement will represent a highlight of his political career.

He and Gaagwiis signed the agreement in front of the Nation, along with Haida Council Vice-President Stephen Grosse and B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin. The Nation’s hereditary chiefs signed next, followed by representatives from the B.C. legislature, the Council of the Haida Nation and municipal leaders.

The agreement is expected to enter a transition period for at least the next two years, while B.C. and the Haida Nation negotiate how to combine their laws. During that period, local governments and residents will have an opportunity to weigh in, according to the province, and all land and resource decisions will be made through existing processes.

The Nation has said it’s focus will be on switching the priority of land management from a system that benefits the province and corporations most, to one that is in the best interest of its people and everyone living in Haida Gwaii.

READ ALSO: Province recognizes Haida Nation self-governance with legislation

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About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media after starting as a community reporter in Greater Victoria.
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