British Columbia

'Huge mistake' to include fishing rights in treaty: MP

A Conservative MP is criticizing his own government for making a mistake in finalizing a First Nations treaty that includes Fraser River fishing rights.

A Conservative MP is criticizing his own government for making a "huge mistake" in finalizing a First Nations treaty that includes Fraser River fishing rights.

Delta-Richmond East MP John Cummins says an agreement initialled in October with the Lheidli T'enneh in Prince George gives the band too much access to Fraser River salmon.

"I think [Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice] made a huge mistake, and the people of British Columbia and the fish in the Fraser River are going to be the losers," Cummins said.

The final agreement with the Lheidli T'enneh provides access to fish for food, social and ceremonial purposes.

The amount of sockeye the band is permitted to catch is based on the returns for that year — two per cent of the total for Canada.

But Cummins argues the right to barter the fish makes it hard to ensure there won't be commercial activity.

Two more agreements under the B.C. treaty process will be initialled this week, including a deal with the Tsawwassen reserve in Delta, which lies in Cummins' riding.

Cummins is worried that an agreement with the Tsawwassen will include similar provisions.

There are reports that the agreement, the largest urban treaty in B.C.'s history, gives the First Nation a part of the Fraser River fishery.

Cummins said he was elected for his views opposing a separate aboriginal fishery.

"I mean obviously I'd prefer not to be critical of my government, but … when all is said and done in politics, I've got to go home."

The Tsawwassen treaty is expected to be initialled Friday. Another initialling ceremony will take place Saturday on Vancouver Island for the Maa-nulth from the Port Alberni area.

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