chief negotiator, Westbank First Nation
Westbank, B.C. -- The failure of the Lheidli T'enneh band to ratify their treaty is a wakeup call to governments (Tiny Band Votes Down Historic Land Treaty -- April 2). Treaty-making is, at its core, about non-natives acquiring the right to occupy and use tribal lands. Legally, in those areas of Canada where aboriginal title still exists, which is in most of B.C., it is non-natives who really need the treaties -- not the natives.
Governments seem to have forgotten this simple truth as the rhetoric of "new relationships" and "working together" sometimes clouds the reality of what is needed to fairly settle treaties and ensure justice.
Treaty negotiations have not been "negotiations" for many years. Governments come to the table with poorly thought out take-it-or-leave-it positions that serve neither the province nor Canada well, nor, indeed, first nations.
Treaties have become way too complicated. They are not designed to be living documents but rather "full and final settlement," a dangerous approach that may result in future conflict. If B.C. and Canada truly want economic certainty, they had better realize who actually needs the treaties. Members of the Lheidli T'enneh band just told them.