Maa-nulth First Nations sign historic B.C. treaty
After years of little progress and costly negotiations, five Vancouver Island First Nations signed a treaty Saturday worth almost $500 million,a treatythat includes more than 24,000 hectares of land.
The Maa-nulth First Nations live on the west coast of Vancouver Island with some of the land bordering the scenic Pacific Rim National Park near Tofino.
The five Maa-nulth chiefs, B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice gathered Saturdayfor a ceremony in Victoria.
Campbell said the deal is a step in the right direction that couldpave the wayfor further agreements in the future.
"Today I hope we've taken a step away from the shadows of the past with an agreement that we can all be proud of," he said.
The deal must still be ratified by the 2,000 Maa-nulth people and the federal and B.C. governments.
Once ratified and enacted as legislation, Prentice said the treaty benefits both the province and First Nations.
"It will set in motion lasting solutions to issues that have hindered social and hindered economic growth for your communities for too long," he said.
The Maa-nulth are part of Vancouver Island's 14-member Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, but the five bands decided to negotiate a treaty as a separate group.
The Maa-nulth treaty comes a day after the federal and B.C. governments initialled a land, cash and fish deal Friday with the Tsawwassen First Nation near Vancouver.
15 years without a deal
The two treaties are considered remarkable progress after almost 15 years of slow-moving, costly talks without a single deal.
The financial component of the Maa-nulth treaty includes cash in lump sum and timed payments.
The First Nations will receive $90 million in cash, up to $45 million over 25 years for potential revenue sharing projects, and $150 million over eight years for program financing.
Estimates for the value of the treaty lands range between $100 million and $200 million.
With files from the Canadian Press