The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Protests shift to protocol: B.C. First Nations hail new way forward for business

  • Print

VANCOUVER - Stopping undesirable resource development in B.C.'s Fraser Canyon used to involve blockading trains, but that has changed for a cluster of First Nations with a former "history of battles" that now just wants to get down to business.

Five Interior First Nations governed by the Nkala'pamux Nation Tribal Council signed an agreement Wednesday with the province giving them a seat on a new decision-making board involving business in their territory.

The agreement underscores a shift in how First Nations, the provincial government and industry in B.C. are approaching resource and revenue sharing in recognition of the difficult and slow-moving treaty process.

First Nations people are moving away from the militant tactics of yesteryear to gain a voice when they have an issue, said Grand Chief Robert Pasco, who represents the council.

"We've had our day, we've had our issues, but we're at a better place," he said before a delegation of chiefs gathered in Vancouver.

"We've moved. People recognize there's a better way, a different way that business can be done. And they've jumped out of the woodwork to help make it happen."

The chiefs unanimously hailed the 18-month pilot project, which will first involve decisions connected to the Highland Valley Copper Mine, owned by Teck Resources (TSX:TCK.A), that's located within the Nlaka'pamux territory.

The agreement was hammered out with the province in the two years since an initial framework was created in March 2012. If successful, the board will broaden its mandate to include other mines and companies in the road and forestry sectors.

The deal is a historic milestone, said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"It reflects the vision of our ancestors," he said, "who since the beginning have always harboured a vision of sharing the land and sharing the resources in a good way."

More than 200 business agreements have been negotiated between the provincial government and First Nations across B.C. since 2005-06, with more in the process, said John Rustad, minister of aboriginal relations.

Although the province continues to pursue the treaty as the "greatest form of long-term reconciliation," Rustad said that government recognizes it's not of interest to all First Nations and treaties take much more time.

"We want to be able to make sure benefits can flow over a period of time," he said when asked whether these kinds of deals replace the treaty process. "This is one of those types of agreements that helps to build our relationships and build toward long-term reconciliation."

Including First Nations in resource projects helps to secure their communities more economic stability and "ultimately, it helps to solve some social inequity in the reserves," Rustad added.

Liberal politician Jackie Tegart said that collaboration and partnership with First Nations is important for business not just in her Fraser-Nicola riding, but across all of the province.

"I'm sure all of the communities in the area will be looking at this agreement and thinking 'Yes, this is the way forward.'"

Teck Resources didn't initiate the agreement and is currently negotiating its own relationship with the Nlaka'pamux council, but the company's Peter Martell said Teck believes working together in a formal way is "long overdue."

The company has run the Highland Valley mine for about 30 years but only started engaging local First Nations within the past five years, he said.

"I know the philosophy in the mining industry is changing, and I think, (the) same thing with the province, where they're seeing it's important to involve First Nations," Martell said.

"Everybody definitely agrees things need to change."

The province is investing $550,000 in the pilot. The Nlaka'pamux has already worked out an agreement for 37.5 per cent of mineral tax revenue coming from the Highland mine, to be divided amongst the member communities.

Chief Janet Webster, who represents the Lytton First Nation, said it was a challenge to reach the deal but now it's done she feels emotional.

"We've been taken advantage of and we don't benefit from those resources," she said. "I think it's about time everyone, all those resources coming in, say 'Yes this is your land' and 'Yes we will share' and 'Yes we'll share decision-making with you.'


Follow @tamsynburgmann on Twitter

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Jaws of life used to free two people after two-car collision

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • PHIL.HOSSACK@FREEPRESS.MB.CA 090728 / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS White Pelicans belly up to the sushi bar Tuesday afternoon at Lockport. One of North America's largest birds is a common sight along the Red RIver and on Lake Winnipeg. Here the fight each other for fish near the base of Red RIver's control structure, giving human fisher's downstream a run for their money.
  • Someone or thing is taking advantage of the inactivity at Kapyong Barracks,hundreds of Canada Geese-See Joe Bryksa’s goose a day for 30 days challenge- Day 15- May 22, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Should Manitoba support the transport of nuclear waste through the province?

View Results

Ads by Google