In 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Tsilhqot’in First Nation has “declared title” over approximately 2,000 square kilometres of land surrounding the Nemiah Valley area of central British Columbia (see map). This provides the Tsilhqot’in with land use rights that cannot be interfered with except under exceptional circumstances.
Neighbouring, non-indiginous residents have had generally supportive and peaceful realationships with the Tsilqhot’in for generations. So it has been disappointing that the Tsilqhot’in have chosen to pursue their newly acquired land rights at the expense of non-Aboriginal businesses and residents. Rules have been changed that make it difficult or impossible for businesses to continue their operations, and residents have found that access to their properties has been curtailed.
The underlying effect of these changes is to discourage continued business operations or residence on the Declared Title Lands by non-Tsilhqot’in people.
The Provincial and Federal Governments have made no arrangement whatsoever to compensate those who have suddenly found their businesses undermined, or whose enjoyment of residence has suddenly been disrupted.
What's Happening Today
Negotiations are currently taking place between the Federal Government of Canada, the Province of British Columbia, and the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, where the Tsilhqot’in are seeking sovereign control over what they claim to be their Traditional Territory (see map above).
The Prime Minister of Canada and the Premier of British Columbia are conducting secret negotiations with the Tsilqhot’in First Nation, without inviting any input from non-Tsilqhot’in residents, businesses and other stakeholders in the region who stand to be greatly affected by the outcome. These stakeholders have lived and worked in the region for decades or even generations.
To date, the parties have signed several interim agreements, where the Governments of Canada and British Columbia are prepared to cede territory to the Tsilhqot’in for the purpose of autonomous governance, which will include law-making authority, taxing authority, and judicial authority.
Essentially, they are creating a sovereign state within British Columbia.
The exact borders of this new nation are not currently being made public, but could include the entire claimed Tsilhqot’in Traditional Territory. At this point it is unclear what rights non-Tsilhqot’in citizens currently residing or operating businesses within this new nation would retain.
Should the borders of the new nation be less than the full claimed Tsilhqot’in Traditional Territory, according to their website the Tsilhqot’in Nation intends to pursue legal measures that would result in their having “a meaningful role in deciding how lands and resources are managed, and that Tŝilhqot’in values are respected” over the entire claimed Tsilhqot’in Traditional Territory.
The Traditional Territory encompasses many non-Tsilhqot’in communities, and many thousands of non-Tsilhqot’in Canadian citizens. Take a close-up view here
While the outcome of these negotiations could have a tremendous impact on the businesses, communities, livelihoods, private property rights, and savings of the citizens of this region, no other stakeholders have been invited to participate in these negotiations. In addition, the duly elected representatives of the region, including the provincial MLA and the federal MP, have been shut out of the negotiations and their requests for information have been met with refusal, bringing into question the fairness of this process.
In short, these negotiations, which could result in a life-changing stripping of rights and assets from Canadian citizens, and in a template for further negotiations in other parts of British Columbia and across Canada, are being held in secret without any input from the citizens of British Columbia or Canada. This is unjust, unfair and un-Canadian.
What We Are Asking For
An Open and Transparent Process
It has been said that democracy dies in darkness. If there is to be a fundamental change to the rights and circumstances of citizens, these negotiations should take place through a completely open and transparent process. Not held in secret, with parties bound by Non-Disclosure Agreements and with a tight lid on any information being provided to those who will be affected by the result.
Representation from ALL Stakeholders
All regional Stakeholders must be represented at the negotiation table by their duly elected MP, their MLA, or by special representatives designated by the MLA and MP. These are the people who were elected to represent us, and they are currently being completely shut out of the process.
Rights of ALL Citizens Protected
The interim agreements that have already been signed amongst the parties speak at length about the rights that will accrue to the Tsilhqot’in people, but ignore the rights of other, non-Tsilhqot’in citizens. The rights of ALL should be protected, and these rights must be detailed and enshrined in any resulting agreement or legislation that creates this new nation. The rights of Canadian citizens who are not members of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation should continue to be governed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Fair Compensation For ALL Losses
Any citizen, within or outside the boundaries of this new nation, whose business operation, livelihood, property, residence, or other assets are adversely impacted by the implementation of the final agreement, or who chooses not to remain within the boundaries of the new nation, must be compensated fairly and fully for their assets and their losses. This would include future earnings losses, property valuation losses, divestiture of assets, and in all cases full compensation in a fair manner.
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