Indigenous

B.C. treaty negotiation process looks to speed up agreements, set deadlines

The slow pace of land-claim treaty talks in British Columbia is about to get a kickstart with a series of reforms to speed up negotiations and produce more deals.

Modern-day treaty talks have yielded only 7 final agreements in B.C. in 23 years

British Columbia's Minister for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation John Rustad says a new series of reforms will speed up treaty negotiations in the province. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The slow pace of land-claim treaty talks in British Columbia is about to get a kickstart with a series of reforms to speed up negotiations and produce more deals.

Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad said Tuesday that an agreement between B.C., the federal government and the First Nations Summit, which represents most B.C. First Nations, sets the groundwork for smoother methods to negotiate more treaties in less time.

Rustad said new approaches to reach more deals quicker were needed to reinvigorate modern-day treaty talks that have yielded only seven final agreements in B.C. in 23 years.

"If we were to carry on at this pace of one treaty every three years, it would be 600 years of negotiations, which is just completely unacceptable," he said. "These recommendations will help, and I'm hopeful they will spark some innovation."

The federal and B.C. governments and the First Nations Summit outlined plans to streamline and enhance the treaty process following talks that started last year.

Rustad said reforms will include negotiation deadlines to reach settlements.

He said the deadlines will be set once treaty talks are in the final stages and will enable governments and First Nations get over the final hurdles.

Treaty reforms include options that take the pressure off the parties to reach one final, all-encompassing land-claims treaty, Rustad said, adding First Nations will have the option of reaching treaties in steps.

If people decide to use these different tools then, yes, you won't be sitting at the table until you are a grandfather.- John Rustad, Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister

A joint report on expediting treaty negotiations said the current reality of treaty negotiations in British Columbia necessitates changes in order to advance reconciliation.

First Nations need new and faster ways to reach treaty agreements that are taking far too long, said First Nations Summit spokeswoman Cheryl Casimer.

"If people decide to use these different tools then, yes, you won't be sitting at the table until you are a grandfather."

Rustad said that in September, the province expects to name a new leader of the B.C. Treaty Commission. The position has been vacant for more than a year.

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