Re: A brief history of treaty talks, July 8 BC Views.
Columnist Tom Fletcher raises some contentious points about B.C. treaty talks.
One, Fletcher uses the word “endorsed” to describe the results of the 2002 B.C. provincial referendum on aboriginal treaties. With only 36 per cent of eligible voters having cast a ballot – in which seven per cent were spoiled – it’s difficult to conclude “endorsement” of the government’s stance was achieved.
Two, there was significant opposition to not only the referendum but to Victoria’s position on treaties.
Former judge Thomas Berger harshly criticized the government not only for trying to circumvent aboriginal constitutional rights, but also for previously taking legal action against the 1998 Nisga’a treaty. In a 2002 article, Berger accused the Liberals of asking “the people of the province to give us a mandate to treat aboriginal rights as non-existent.”
As well, attorney-general Geoff Plant pledged that the Liberals would never agree to another Nisga’a-type self-government agreement, which they believed gave First Nations too much power. Victoria was dedicated to imposing a delegated, municipal-style government on natives, a position the referendum was designed to support. Plant went on to add insult to injury when he proclaimed, “you cannot have self-government for 150 people, 50 per cent of whom are FAS or FAE (fetal alcohol syndrome/effect).”
Interestingly, at no time did then-deputy premier Christy Clark ever contradict her government’s actions.
The way forward remains in both recognition of aboriginal constitutional rights, and the sharing of land and resources among all British Columbians, a strategy supported by First Nations.
Bob Burgel, Surrey