Reform promises to fight Nisga'a treaty

The treaty that gives nearly 2,000 square kilometres of land in B.C., $190 million and some self government powers to the Nisga'a, is on its way to becoming law.

But the Reform Party has warned the bill won't pass without a fight.

"Why has the government decided that democracy also has to be a victim of this Nisga'a agreement," asked Reform MP Chuck Strahl.

The Indian Affairs Minister, Bob Nault, says the Commons will debate the treaty, the facts and the agreement. But "if its the intention of the Reform Party to play games with this and delay it, we won't put up with it." He added that the government will not let people's lives be held up for purely political reasons.

Thursday morning in Vancouver, Reform leader Preston Manning re-emphasised his opposition to the treaty.

Manning was addressing a number of issues during an open line radio talk show. The Nisga'a treaty was one of those issues.

Manning calls the treaty a back door constitutional amendment. And he adds the federal Liberals refuse to recognize that native groups across Canada will demand the same rights as the Nisga'a. "The government is utterly indifferent to any arguments along those lines. They just deny that is the case," he said.

Manning also says the Nisga'a have negotiated a bad deal, accepting the dream of economic development through outdated concepts that don't work in a world of private property, free trade and market forces.

" The federal government did this to aboriginal people before. They did it on the prairies. Just when agriculture was getting into using tractors, the federal government gave them horses. It gave them the technology from the previous generation not the current one. They (natives) take government at its word and when government says these are the tools for economic development they take it at its word. But I think they are being grossly short-changed," said the Opposition leader.

Under the Nisga'a Treaty, Ottawa will pay 70 per cent of the costs, B.C. will supply the land and the rest of the money. The Nisga'a will surrender their tax exempt status and right to future claims.