HTG chief negotiator Robert Morales. (Citizen file)

After 26 years, Vancouver Island First Nations group moves to final treaty negotiations

Vancouver Island’s Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group transitions to Stage 5

In what chief negotiator Robert Morales is calling a “significant step” the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group (HTG) on Vancouver Island announced Wednesday that the documents have been signed to move to Stage 5 — the “final agreement” step of BC Treaty Negotiations.

The move comes after nearly 20 years stalled at Stage 4. The Treaty Group represents the First Nations of the Cowichan Valley area.

“The B.C. Treaty process, when it was established in ‘93, developed six stages and the first three stages were fairly quick, but Stage 4 was the ‘agreement in principal’ stage and that’s where we’ve been stuck for 20 years now,” explained Morales. “Moving into a ‘final agreement’ stage means that we’re able to negotiate to enter into what I would term ‘real’ negotiation. We’re no longer talking about what might be, we’re now developing the final agreement, final treaty language and dealing with a lot of the issues we’ve had in the past. It’s a significant step in the overall treaty process to be able to enter into the final treaty discussions and negotiations.”

SEE RELATED: Ancient Indigenous settlement to become outdoor classroom in North Cowichan

Though it’s taken two decades to arrive at this point, Morales believes the process will now move forward more swiftly.

“We set a goal of four years,” he said. “In the transition document itself there are a number of commitments that are made by the two levels of government [federal and provincial] and the HTG and their member nations.”

Also, the set of guiding principals created for moving forward “is a vast improvement” over the way negotiations have been conducted up to this point, Morales noted.

“The new policy is a very significant improvement and a policy agreed to by both Canada and B.C.,” he said. “The transition document makes reference to a number of different commitments by Canada and B.C. that really set the stage for the final agreement negotiations. If we’re able to implement all of that, I think it speaks to being able to move much more quickly.”

SEE RELATED: T.W. Paterson: First came the Hul’qmi’num peoples

Morales credits the willingness of both the federal and provincial governments to work with the HTG for being able to escape Stage 4.

“We have for the first time some fairly congruent positions between the federal Liberal party and the (B.C.) NDP party so that made it a lot easier in terms of both levels of government being more agreeable to moving forward,” he said.

As well, the member nations of the HTG (Cowichan Tribes, Halalt First Nation, Penelakut Tribe, Lyackson First Nation and the Ts’uubaa-asatx (Lake Cowichan First Nations) are all in support of moving forward so the time that would have been spent on community votes was saved.

The communities will have to vote on ratification of the final agreement eventually.

Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said “this new relationship is based on a recognition of rights. A rights recognition approach explicitly recognizes that Aboriginal rights are inherent and will not be extinguished or surrendered, and seeks to build a collaborative government-to-government relationship that is flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances over time.”

Cowichan Tribes is the largest band in B.C. with more than 5,000 members.

“After being in the treaty negotiation since 1993, this is a major step forward for our Hul’qumi’num Nations,” said Cowichan Chief William Seymour.

Other member First Nations chiefs agreed.

Chief Georgina Livingstone (Ts’uubaa-asatx [Lake Cowichan] First Nation) stated that she looks forward to continuing the work.

Chief Joan Brown of Penelakut Tribe said “This signing represents an important step in the reconciliation process and hopes it is the beginning of a strong, respectful relationship in the future.”

Chief Richard Thomas (Lyackson First Nation) said he “was overwhelmed by the length of time it has taken to get here.”

Chief Robert Thomas (Halalt First Nation) said “We never relinquished our title to the land and that this treaty is for our future generations of children and grandchildren.”

Morales, too, is pleased with the milestone and looks forward to the work ahead.

“It all speaks to a very much improved relationship between Canada, B.C., and First Nations.”



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Langley’s Liam Visram has been named a community hero

Hockey player who has diabetes inspired a young fan with the same condition

Langley astronomy teacher hopes to answer questions about the universe at public presentation

Beyond the Stars runs 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Walnut Grove Secondary School

VIDEO: Langley woman without a home after houseboat sinks during snowy weather

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the Grant’s Landing resident replace her possessions

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Province asks health-care staff to be ‘vigilant’ in screening for possible coronavirus cases

This comes after U.S. health officials confirmed a case of the virus in Washington State

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

B.C. player becomes only second Canadian to enter Hall of Fame of Baseball

Walker received 76.6 percent of the Baseball Writers of America Association vote

PHOTOS: Heavy snowfall breaks window, causing avalanche into B.C. newsroom office

It was a chaotic start to the week for the Kitimat Northern Sentinel

Deer carcass strung up at Surrey fire hall prompts investigation

Investigation underway following complaint a Surrey firefighter hung a deer carcass in a fire hall

Canadian law firm launches class action on behalf of Iran flight victims

Flight 752 was shot down by Iran shortly after take off

Mission Hill cellarman fired after mistakenly dumping $162K of wine down the drain

The former employee filed a grievance with the West Kelowna winery but was unsuccesful

Most Read