B.C. signs 'breakthrough' reconciliation agreement with shíshálh Nation

The province has signed an agreement with the shíshálh Nation on the Sunshine Coast that is being hailed as a milestone in the relationship between the province and Indigenous groups.

Deal creates government-to-government relationship on economy, environment

shíshálh Chief Warren Paull and B.C. Premier John Horgan in conversation Thursday during the ceremony for a reconciliation agreement between the two governments. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The province has signed an agreement with the shíshálh Nation on the Sunshine Coast that is being hailed as a milestone in the relationship between the province and Indigenous groups.

The reconciliation agreement sets the terms for a government-to-government relationship between the province and the self-governing shíshálh, formerly known as the Sechelt First Nation, around economic development and environmental protection.

"Generations of our people have advocated and sacrificed for a principled reconciliation based on recognition and implementation of our title and rights," shíshálh Chief Warren Paull said, calling the agreement a "breakthrough".

The province is providing about $36 million to pay for the transfer of three parcels of Crown land to the shíshálh for cultural and economic use, including gravel mining and forestry. The land is adjacent to shíshálh territory.

Crown land transferred

The agreement establishes shared decision-making structures between the province and the shíshálh. It also includes land-use planning which Paull says the nation has been working to achieve since the 1990s.

"This is a completely new model for true reconciliation in British Columbia. [It] pushes past the obstacles that have caused massive delays, conflict and contention in the past," he said.

The shíshálh have been self-governing since 1986. Premier John Horgan acknowledged their "patience" in waiting for recognition of their rights and a government-to-government relationship.

"For too long our conversations about reconciliation have ignored that relationship and instead we have been relegated to the courts to resolve disputes," he said.

The shared decision-making process on forestry includes working with industry and, if successful, could be expanded to other parts of the province, said Doug Donaldson, minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resources. 

"Through shared decision-making we gain a better understanding of each other's priorities on the land base. This will bring predictability," he said.

Noting the agreement meets obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Horgan said he hopes it will be the first of many in B.C.

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