Deal a long time coming

By Arthur Williams

Free Press

Aug 04 2006



Lheidli T'enneh Band, B.C. government and federal government negotiators

announced they reached a final treaty, Tuesday.


The treaty - 13 years in the making - is the first to be reached under

the B.C. treaty process.


Details of the treaty are still under wraps, but some of the terms

include: a $27 million one-time grant; $400,000 a year in revenue

sharing for 50 years, 4,330 hectares of treaty lands, 107,000 cubic

metres in long-term timber supply, fishery rights to harvest 9,000 to

10,000 sockeye salmon for food, social and ceremonial purposes and the

right to harvest 6,000 sockeye per year for sale.


The one-time grant will cover the $6 million spent by the band

throughout the negotiation process.


The 312-member band will also have the right of self-governance, with

governmental responsibilities crossing traditional municipal, provincial

and federal jurisdictions.


Several side agreements are still being discussed, but negotiators

expect to sign off on the treaty this September.


After that, the Lheidli T'enneh people will have a chance to review the

treaty and decide whether to ratify it. If the Lheidli T'enneh approve

the agreement, then it will go to the provincial and federal governments

to passed into legislation.


"Our expectation is all three parties will ratify the agreement,"

Lheidli T'enneh chief negotiator Mark Stevenson said. "The negotiations

are over."


If the agreement is ratified, Stevenson said, then the Lheidli T'enneh's

reservation land status - along with it's tax exemptions - would be

phased out. If the treaty isn't ratified, negotiators head back to the



Although the Lheidli T'enneh treaty is the first to be completed in

B.C., Stevenson said, he doesn't believe it will be a template for other

First Nations treaties.


"This is a Lheidli T'enneh agreement," he said.


Federal negotiator Tom Malloy said various government departments have

been consulted throughout the process, so he doesn't expect any

opposition to the agreement.


Lheidli T'enneh Chief Dominick Frederick said his people have been

waiting a long time for this agreement.


"It will have a huge impact on our community. It will be a huge change

in terms of self government," Frederick said.


"We will have more of a say in our fisheries and hunting and way of life."


Frederick said he can't predict if the Lheidli T'enneh community will

ratify the deal.


"A lot of our community members are well-versed in the issues," he said.


"When they are ready to sign, they will sign. It's their agreement, they

have to be satisfied with it."