A Treaty to Empower Our Culture, Language, Resources, Lands, Waters and Communities
The power of the GFN comes from our culture, language, traditions, and sense of community. It also comes from the local lands, waters, and natural resources.
Traditional stories (Adaawx) bring people together and weave stories of our relationship with nature and each other in our territory. Stories teach us how to be stewards of the territory so it can be preserved for future generations.
From this place of strength, the GFN Treaty was created. The Gitga’at First Nation invites true reconciliation with the Crown and other Canadians.
The Treaty gives our Nation the constitutionally protected right to practice and protect our culture, language, lands and waters, and every living thing in the territory that depends on a healthy environment. This gives us a strong voice in negotiations, as protecting our natural resources is at the forefront of the decision-making process.
At a higher level, the Nation must be able to chart its own course using traditional values in a modern age. From this foundation, the community is strong and proud.
Moving from Treaty to Reconciliation
GFN has moved from negotiating a Treaty to something referred to as Reconciliation Negotiations. Right now, the Nation is still developing a Reconciliation Framework Agreement, which lays out the roadmap for negotiations while giving us an opportunity for some early benefits.
These kinds of negotiations will build on the work we have already done during our Treaty negotiations, but gives us more flexibility to achieve our goals in a shorter time frame, as well as recognizing Aboriginal Title to our lands right in the agreement.
This is a short introduction to the Reconciliation process, how it differs from the Treaty, and how Gitga’at members can get involved. This is the first of many planned updates from the Negotiating Team.
We have also been “harvesting the fruit along the way”, even during Treaty negotiations. For instance, GFN has negotiated agreements that give us a share of revenue over forestry in our territory, and benefits for allowing Liquified Natural Gas developments.
As we move into these early stages, we also recognize the work done so far, including our Treaty Related Measure projects.
TREATY-RELATED MEASURE PROJECTS
ATLAS Booklet Project
Gitga’at First Nation Lands and Marine Resources Planning – Areas of Interest
Strategic Planning TRM
Gitga'at First Nation Land and Marine Resources Strategic Planning Project
Living Landscapes Project
Gitga'at First Nation Living Landscapes Project
Innovative Fisheries Management Project
Gitga'at First Nation Innovative Fisheries Management Project (Led by GOLD)
What is a Reconciliation Agreement, and how is it different from Treaty?
Some of the work we completed under the Treaty Process is unfairly required by BC and Canada; we have been here since time immemorial. However, through a combination of persistence, and benefitting from the precedent-setting Supreme Court battles fought by some of our neighbours, the tide is beginning to turn. Reconciliation Agreements are part of this change in the Indigenous Rights and Title landscape.
Reconciliation Agreements vs. Treaties
Title is negotiated, abrogated, modified
All or nothing
Funds come at the end
Intended as a final agreement
Title by Agreement (Recognized right up front), rights and title continue (not through litigation)
Funding flows immediately
Does not necessarily have an end point
One of the most important decisions that set up the shift we are seeing was the Tsilhqot’in Decision of 2014. After decades of litigation, the Tsilhquot’in Nation used the Supreme Court’s own rules to demonstrate the title to their territory.
The Treaty Process always required a great deal of work to demonstrate our Aboriginal Title. But with Reconciliation Agreements, the Province of BC and Canada recognize Aboriginal Title up front. The negotiations that lead to these agreements are about defining how we want to exercise that title. For instance, the Tsilhquot’in are not interested in jurisdiction over highways, but do want a say in how ranch lands are managed in their territory.
What are some areas that we can expect to see in our negotiations?
Currently, Gitga’at negotiators are finishing a Framework Agreement that will set out the broad areas for future Reconciliation negotiations. This Framework Agreement is just a start of the negotiations; Reconciliation Agreements are “incremental”, meaning they don’t have to cover everything all at once.
The Framework Agreement also includes “Good Faith Measures” which are areas that GFN has identified as important. These areas are not finalized, but may include elements like housing and infrastructure projects.
The areas that can be included in Reconciliation Agreements are very broad. Other Nations have negotiated for economic development funding, increased access to revenue from resource development in their territories and increased decision-making authority over lands.
Over the next few years, Gitga’at membership will have many opportunities to shape the priorities at the negotiating table through engagement. This is uncharted territory, and Gitga’at members need to be involved.
Gitga’at membership priorities need to be reflected in the Reconciliation negotiations. To do this, a Reconciliation Advisory Committee (RAC) has been established that includes elected and hereditary leadership, youth, Elders, and members from Hartley Bay, Prince Rupert, and around the province. The RAC is guiding work to engage with Gitga’at members to ensure our priorities are reflected at the negotiating table. The chart below shows how Gitga’at member priorities will ultimately shape increased jurisdiction and services to our people.
An Agreement is Only Halfway up the Mountain
The same time as the RAC is engaging with membership, the GFN administration – band employees and contractors – are gearing up for an increase in authority and resources. The Central Government Working Group is chaired by Band Manager, Teresa Robinson, and composed of department heads from Human Resources, Gitga’at Oceans and Lands Department, the Gitga’at Development Corporation, Finance, and the Reconciliation Negotiating Team. This group is developing a plan to grow the Nation so that members receive the full benefits of the Reconciliation Agreements as soon as possible after they are signed.
What can Gitga’at members expect from Reconciliation Engagement?
There has already been one engagement meeting in Hartley Bay and one in Prince Rupert to introduce the RAC and the engagement process. The RAC is planning three more meetings before March 2023 with regular updates based on the feedback we receive.
If you have questions about the process, please send an email to email@example.com.