Montreal – Bilateral agreements with Indigenous nations in British Columbia are steps toward reconciliation that provide lessons for the rest of Canada, says Michael Hudson in a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
There are few historic or modern treaties with Indigenous nations in British Columbia. The tripartite BC Treaty Process, established in 1992 by the federal government, the provincial government and Indigenous rights holders to resolve land disputes has had only modest success.
Adopting a different approach, since the early 2000s the BC government has signed several hundred bilateral agreements with more than 200 Indigenous nations. Most of them provide the Indigenous nation with a role in planning economic development and, in a number of cases, a share of resource revenues.
Hudson reviews the terms and effects of the agreements struck with four Indigenous nations (Haida, Musqueam, Lax Kw’alaams and Tsilhqot’in). “The arrangements, most quite recent, demonstrate a willingness to explore new forms of governance within Indigenous nations and, in particular, between them and the provincial government,” he says.
According to Hudson, bilateral arrangements will likely remain a major vehicle to govern BC’s relations with Indigenous nations. However, unlike most modern treaties, they do not significantly advance Indigenous self-determination. He concludes that there is a risk of complacency if the current generation of agreements, which do not have constitutional protection, come to be seen as the best that can be achieved.
Michael Hudson is a former associate assistant deputy minister of Aboriginal Affairs at Justice Canada. He led the department’s Task Force on Constitutional Relations with Indigenous Nations in 2016-17.
British Columbia-Indigenous Nation Agreements: Lessons for Reconciliation? by Michael Hudson, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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