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Kitselas First Nation, Government of Canada, Government of British Columbia initial draft Kitselas Treaty; take important step in nation-to-nation relationship

June 24, 2024 at 4:19 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Chief Glenn Bennett of the Kitselas First Nation; Gary Anandasangaree, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; and Murray Rankin, British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, marked a significant milestone toward renewing their nation-to-nation relationships on Monday, June 24, 2024.

The chief negotiators of all three parties, witnessed by these dignitaries, have initialled the draft Kitselas Treaty, demonstrating progress toward Kitselas implementing their right to self-determination and realizing their vision of a better future for their communities.

This treaty has been years in the making, building on decades of dialogue and negotiation to address the historical grievances and aspirations of the Kitselas people. The initialling of the Kitselas Treaty marks a pivotal step forward in advancing the Kitselas Treaty negotiation process. Initialling marks an important milestone in the treaty journey as it signals the conclusion of substantive negotiations and readiness for the ratification process. Some changes may still be made prior to the membership ratification process as Crown consultations with neighbouring First Nations remain ongoing. Once finalized, the treaty will undergo a ratification process through a Kitselas membership vote and through provincial and federal legislation. If successfully ratified by all parties, the Kitselas Treaty will constitutionally recognize Kitselas First Nation’s treaty rights to governance, harvesting, land ownership, resource management, and other rights and benefits.

In recent years, there have been significant and foundational shifts in policy and approach that have re-energized the treaty negotiations process in B.C., including the finalization of the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in 2019. These positive shifts reflect new approaches to negotiation in line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Canada’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act and the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

To get to this milestone, engagement activities have taken place throughout the many years of negotiations. Engaging and informing First Nation members, local governments, residents, business organizations, interest holders and other stakeholders, and the public is an important aspect of treaty and reconciliation negotiations, and the ratification process.

The close of negotiations signifies the renewal of the nation-to-nation relationship between the Government of Canada, the Government of British Columbia and Kitselas First Nation. If ratified, the treaty would facilitate the implementation of Kitselas’ right to self-determination, social-economic development and their vision for a better future for their community members. The parties look forward to finalizing this important work and to seeing the positive change this historic agreement will bring to the members of Kitselas First Nation.

Quotes:

Chief Glenn Bennett, Kitselas First Nation —

“The Kitselas Treaty will grant us greater control over our future, including ownership of our lands, self-governance, and enhanced programs and services. With the financial settlement and freedom from the constraints of the Indian Act, together the Citizens of Kitselas will create a better tomorrow. We are pleased to reach a positive conclusion to the negotiation process.”

Gary Anandasangaree, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations —

“The federal government is in the process of undoing the legacy of colonial policies and moving toward true nation-to-nation relationships based on good faith. Supporting the Kitselas Nation’s priorities for governance and community is a foundational step to renewing and strengthening our partnership, as we move forward. This treaty unlocks the transformational road ahead for Kitselas to self-determine their future – this is lasting, generational change. Today is cause for celebration.”

Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation —

“The negotiating teams from Kitselas First Nation, Canada and B.C. have worked for decades to get to this stage. The initialling is particularly moving in light of the passing of Sm’oogyet Satsan (Mel Bevan) who worked so hard with so many others to bring a proposed treaty to the people. If ratified, the Kitselas Treaty will provide the basis for a revitalized relationship between Kitselas, their neighbours and all levels of government by fostering shared understanding, providing certainty and supporting further work together in the region.”

Quick Facts:

  • Kitselas and Kitsumkalum are members of the Tsimshian First Nations Treaty Society, which represents multiple Tsimshian Nations whose combined territory spans the northwestern coast and the lower Skeena River, including Prince Rupert and Terrace areas.
  • Since the early 1990s, Kitselas and Kitsumkalum have been involved in treaty negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia. These negotiations are now in the final stage of the BC Treaty Commission Treaty process. 
  • For over 30 years, Kitselas First Nation and Kitsumkalum First Nation have been negotiating their two treaties together, which will result in two distinct, separate treaties. The unique ability to work together for 30 years demonstrates the close family ties and collaborative spirit between the two Nations.
  • Once fully ratified, the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum will join eight other Nations as the only Modern Treaty holders in British Columbia:
    • Maa-nulth First Nations Final Agreement (Huu-ay-aht, Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h’, Toquaht, Uchucklesaht and Yuułuʔiłʔath First Nations)
    • Nisga’a Final Agreement
    • Tla’amin Final Agreement
    • Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement

Learn More:

To learn more about Kitselas First Nation, visit: https://kitselastreaty.ca/

To learn more about Kitselas Treaty and Kitsumkalum Treaty negotiations, visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/engagement/kitselas-and-kitsumkalum-treaty-negotiations/

To learn more about the BC Treaty Commission, visit: https://bctreaty.ca/

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