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B.C. to vote on settling treaty claims

The Story

"It's the single-most destructive process I've seen in my lifetime," says Hupacasath Chief Judith Sayers about a controversial B.C. treaty referendum. In 1998, the Nisga'a band became the only First Nation in the province to settle a land claim. The groundbreaking victory, won while Glen Clark was premier, gave the band title to 2,000 square kilometres of Crown land. Four years later, Premier Gordon Campbell's new government is taking a more cautious approach. British Columbians will vote in an eight-question referendum on the importance of settling treaties. Campbell sees the vote as a democratic right. Liberal MLA Gillian Trumper, a local politician who also supports the referendum, believes it will help speed up treaty negotiations. But Indigenous groups find the process "racist," rather than democratic, and have begun forms of protest, as seen in this clip of a CBC Television documentary on the referendum.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: April 25, 2002
Guests: Brandy Lauder, Judith Sayers, Gillian Trumper, Wayne Weibe
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Duncan McCue
Duration: 10:01

Did You know?

The questions and results of the 2002 treaty referendum were as follows:

• Private property should not be expropriated for treaty settlements. 84.5 per cent Yes.

• The terms and conditions of leases and licences should be respected; fair compensation for unavoidable disruption of commercial interests should be ensured. 92.1 per cent Yes.

• Hunting, fishing and recreational opportunities on Crown land should be ensured for all British Columbians. 93.1 per cent Yes.

• Parks and protected areas should be maintained for the use and benefit of all British Columbians. 94.5 per cent Yes.

• Province-wide standards of resource management and environmental protection should continue to apply. 93.6 per cent Yes.

• Aboriginal self-government should have the characteristics of local government, with powers delegated from Canada and British Columbia. 87.2 per cent Yes.

• Treaties should include mechanisms for harmonizing land use planning between Aboriginal governments and neighbouring local governments. 91.7 per cent Yes.

• The existing tax exemptions for Aboriginal people should be phased out. 90.5 per cent Yes.


• The government was bound to the results, "in principle," when negotiating further treaties.  Only 36 per cent of voters responded to the mail-out ballot; two out of three voters declined to participate. This was less than half the number who voted in the most recent provincial election. The B.C. government spent $9-million on the referendum.  In 2002, treaty negotiations of 53 B.C. First Nations were underway with the federal and B.C. governments. The number included 111 bands. The top 10 most populous B.C. First Nations were (2002): Tsimshian (7,158), Nuu-chah-nulth (6,535), Hul'qumi'nim (5,645), Carrier Sekani (5,363), Gitxsan (5,353), Haida (3,651), Sto:lo (3,527), Squamish (3,150), Wet'suwet'en (2,406) and Heiltsuk (2,406).


The Battle for Indigenous Treaty Rights more