British Columbia

B.C. government ratifies historic Tsawwassen First Nation treaty

The B.C. legislature has given final approval to a historic urban aboriginal land-claim treaty on Wednesday despite some dissenting voices and a few absences.

The B.C. legislature has given final approval to a historic urban aboriginal land-claim treaty on Wednesday despite some dissenting voices and a few absences.

By a vote of 63 to four, MLAs ratified the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty, the province's first native treaty after 15 years of negotiations.

Liberals Blair Lekstrom, Dennis Mackay and Dan Jarvis voted against the deal, as did suspended New Democrat Michael Sather.

Three other New Democrats, including Guy Gentner and Corky Evans, were absent. They opposed the removal of land from the agricultural land reserve, but agreed not to vote against their caucus position.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mike de Jong said he was disappointed but not surprised.

"To have spent as much time as they did criticizing this treaty and then flee from the chamber when it was time to register that vote, I think, is a gross abdication of their responsibility," de Jong said.

NDP house leader Mike Farnworth said at least the New Democrats were up front about their position.

"The only reason you had Liberals standing up and voting against it is because they weren't able to whip their own caucus into line to support the treaty," Farnworth said.

The Tsawwassen First Nation treaty — which still needs ratification in the House of Commons — will give the 300-member nation$40 million, a share of the Fraser River salmon catch and 372 hectares of Crown land south of Vancouver, near the mouth of the Fraser River.

In July, Tsawwassen band members voted 130-50 to accept the treaty negotiated with the federal and provincial governments.

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