Canada, British Columbia and the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations advance to final stage of treaty negotiations
July 9, 2022 — Tsulquate Reserve, District of Port Hardy, British Columbia — Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations — Crown−Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada
The governments of Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw, Canada and British Columbia have signed a new agreement that will further advance reconciliation and treaty negotiations.
Today, Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nation Leaders, Hereditary Chiefs; the Honourable Marc Miller, federal Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations; and Michele Babchuk, Member of the Legislative Assembly for North Island, on behalf of the Honourable Murray Rankin, provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, signed the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations Transition to Stage 5 Memorandum of Understanding.
The Memorandum of Understanding marks the next and final stage (Stage 5) of treaty negotiations. This will support the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations' right to self-determination and define a new relationship between Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, Canada and British Columbia by enabling next steps in the BC Treaty Process.
The Memorandum of Understanding commits the parties to establish a new approach to their treaty negotiations, which will be guided and informed by the Recognition and Reconciliation of Rights Policy for Treaty Negotiations in British Columbia, which was collaboratively developed and released by the Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia and the First Nations Summit in 2019. This new approach to negotiations ensures agreements align with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and British Columbia's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The approach will allow for the recognition and continuation of rights without those rights being modified, surrendered, or extinguished when a treaty is signed, and for the design of a treaty that is flexible and able to adapt to changing circumstances over time.
As the parties prepare to enter into Stage 5 of negotiations, they recognize that there remains much work to do and many decisions to be made before the treaty process is complete. Today's Memorandum of Understanding marks a significant step towards reconciliation and resolution and recognizes the hard work and dedication of those involved on behalf of Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw, Canada and British Columbia in reaching this significant milestone.
"Our Nations worked hard because we lost so much after relocation away from our Homelands. We did not have much after we arrived, not even running water. For so many years, we struggled for basic needs to survive. We had to fight for a few houses, fight to get our kids back after the Ministry of Children and Family Development took them. Fight for our school. Our people were down.
The Treaty and work on this Memorandum of Understanding have helped us focus on rebuilding as strong nations once more, with a thriving culture, education, economic development, and better health and well-being of our peoples. On our path to self-determination together in the spirit of reconciliation, working with the two levels of government, and greater flexibility of mandate, we will address and regain what was lost."
Chief Terry Walkus
"This Transition to Stage 5 Revitalization Agreement is the result of hard work and renewed understandings. Our Hereditary Chief, the late Tom Henderson Sr., after 25 years at the BCTC Negotiation Table stated, 'This is us, the Gwa'sala and 'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, this is how we lived, this is how a people live.' The federal and provincial governments made their best effort to explain the processes they work under in an effort achieve a mandate to support a just and lasting agreement.
The MOU represents common hard-won understandings of the unique circumstances of our Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, who, in 1964, were forcibly relocated out of our homelands and onto another's Douglas Treaty lands; and the challenge of BC and Canada to fully understand and agree on ways to address the tragic losses and history, while at the same time understand and support the strength of Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations leadership to rebuild as self-determining Nations.
I acknowledge all the negotiators who got us through to this revitalization of negotiations agreement and to the next stage of negotiations, including the provincial and federal governments teams, the BC Treaty Commission and the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw treaty team. Gilakas'la all."
Colleen Hemphill, "Tsax – tsa – ghay - dzemgha"
Chief Negotiator, Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations
"The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding provides the foundation to move ahead on a treaty with the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations based on their community priorities. By working together, we are developing new approaches towards reconciliation that will support the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations in building a better future for their community and implementing their vision of self-determination for this generation and many to come."
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
"Treaties are a critically important pathway to meaningful reconciliation. Through strong relationship building, the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations, Canada and the Province of BC are demonstrating how together, we can support strong, healthy and thriving Indigenous communities. This important MOU will benefit the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw people today and for generations to come."
Member of the Legislative Assembly for North Island
The Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations has approximately 1,057 members and 26 remote reserves.
Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw, British Columbia and Canada entered treaty negotiations in 1997.
For more information, media may contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Crown–Indigenous Relations
CIRNAC Media Relations:
Director of k'awatsi Consulting and Management Services
On behalf of Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw Nations
Province of British Columbia
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