BC Signs Final Agreement with Tla’amin Nation

By Roy L Hales

The Government of British Columbia and the Tla’amin Nation have signed the final agreement that precedes the signing of a treaty.

The Tla’amin occupied the northern part of the Sunshine Coast (see map above), practising their traditional lifestyle and governed by their own laws,  for 2,000 years. There are presently 1,026 band members, most of which live on the reserve north of Powell River.

Though it was the English custom to sign treaties with First Nations and pay some compensation, this did not take place in most of British Columbia. It took a Supreme Court case, in 1997, to reestablish the fact that aboriginal title still exists and First Nations are entitled to compensation.

There have been some treaties signed since then, but as of 2009 there were 60 First Nations negotiating their way through the treaty process.

The Tla’amin have been negotiating since 1994.

According to the Provincial Government’s Press Release:

  • “The Tla’amin Final Agreement, also known as treaty, includes self-government provisions and phases out tax exemptions.
  • The treaty will provide Tla’amin with a capital transfer of approximately $29.7 million, paid in 10 annual payments; economic development funding of approximately $6.9 million and a fishing vessel fund of $0.25 million.
  • The treaty also includes more than 8,000 hectares of land owned in fee simple, consisting of approximately 1,900 hectares of former Tla’amin Indian reserve land and 6,405 hectares of former provincial Crown land.
  • The final agreement clearly defines Tla’amin First Nation’s ownership and management of mineral, forestry and other resources on treaty settlement lands. The agreement also defines Tla’amin’s rights related to fishing, gathering and harvesting.
  • The treaty identifies Tla’amin’s obligations to non-members, including consultation and access to appeal and review processes.”
  • Tla’amin laws would operate on Tla’amin lands concurrently with federal and provincial laws, similar to other jurisdictions in Canada.

The Tla’amin held a community celebration, with drummers and traditional songs, to celebrate  the signing of this agreement.

“This signing marks another significant step along the path of reconciliation between the Tla’amin Nation and British Columbia,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad.

“I am sure many of you are wondering why we are here in Tees Kwat, rather then the Salish Centre,”  Chief Clint Williams told the assembled guests. “We are here to pay respects to our ancestors.  Tees Kwat is an original village site of the Tla’amin people.”

He described the signing of the agreement as one of the final steps  that, “re-establishes our connection to our territories and sets the foundation for re-building the Tla’amin Nation…. This treaty will give us the tools to break free of the Indian Act.”

“The current economic challenges of the region will give the  Tla’amin economic and long term opportunities,” Chief Williams added.

“This signing marks another significant step along the path of reconciliation between the Tla’amin Nation and British Columbia,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad.

Once the federal settlement legislation has been passed, Tla’amin, Canada and British Columbia will work to complete the tasks required to bring the final agreement (the treaty) into legal effect, which is targeted for April 2016.

(Image at top of page:  Map of Sliammon (Ta’amin) tribal territory – Background map courtesy of Demis, www.demis.nl User:Nikater submitted to public Domain)

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