Tsilhqot'in Chiefs Francis Laceese (from left)

VIDEO AND SLIDESHOW: Federal government signs letter of understanding with Tsilhqot’in Nation

The Tsilhqot'in Nation achieved a significant milestone Friday when leaders signed a letter of understanding with the Canadian government.



The Tsilhqot’in Nation achieved a significant milestone Friday when leaders signed a letter of understanding with the Canadian government to negotiate in good faith and work toward reconciliation.

In front of a crowded room at the Toosey Health Centre, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and the Chiefs from all seven Tsilhqot’in communities signed the agreement.

Ever since the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its unanimous judgement on June 26, 2014, recognizing Aboriginal title for the Tsilhqot’in people, the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has been trying to get Canada to the negotiating table.

“It is essential we get moving and moving as quickly as we can,” TNG tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse said. “The government process is slow, but we are trying to ensure there are not any delays on our side.”

Minister Bennett stressed the importance of her being in Toosey and on the land to sign the agreement.

“It is good to be here to represent the government of Canada and the Prime Minister,” Bennett said. “We have met many times in my office and in Vancouver, and this is a culmination of the fact that we need to be on the same a page and where we need to go.”

Bennett quoted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying there is no relationship more important to him and to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous people.

“You all know too well that through successive federal governments, Indigenous people have suffered physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually,” Bennett said.  “As we try to make amends we know there are wounds that cannot be healed and there is a stain on Canadian history that cannot be erased.”

Reconciliation means that the truth can never be ignored, she added.

“As we work on a new path we are focused on the life of your people and how things have to change,” she said. “The time began to change in 2014 when the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Tsilhqot’in people have rights and title over 1,750 square kilometres in Interior B.C. near Williams Lake. It was the first time in Canadian history that Aboriginal title was recognized and it happened right here.”

Fighting back his tears, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Roger William stood quietly at the podium before he made a statement.

“As a nation this is amazing,” William said. “I think of our former Chiefs and our elders. There is a lot of history.”

There is already the five-year accord with the provincial government and it will take two years for a similar agreement with the federal government, William said.

“From February on there will be tons of meetings to establish a framework for title lands. We have a lot of work to do. I am looking forward to it and excited,” he added.

Former National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo and his partner Heather Squire, who have been hired by the TNG to help with the transition, attended the ceremony.

“I want to commend all of you Chiefs and all of you people for taking the path of negotiations, it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “There’s no bigger whale that’s been landed on the shores of Indian title and rights than the Tsilhqot’in decision. That’s your victory. It’s not just for you as Tsilhqot’in people it’s for Indigenous people across the land.”

Looking to Bennett, Atleo challenged her and the federal government.

“I do encourage Canada to see this as nation to nation. Be bold and be vulnerable because the trust the Chiefs have talked about is desperately needed,” Atleo said. “We know this is just the start.”

The letter of understanding promises that two sides will make their best efforts to negotiate a Reconciliation Framework Agreement by January 2019.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Wildfire Service changes training of new firefighter recruits due to COVID-19

‘The BC Wildfire Service will continue to hire staff, including firefighters’

BC Wildfire Service makes changes in response to COVID-19

Crews are stationed at Puntzi fire station in the Chilcotin

Stampede Association opening campground for frontline workers April 6

Only doctors, nurses or first responders will be able to use the service

Does COVID-19 have you feeling like escaping to the cottage? Don’t do it, says CRD Chair

This will help avoid potentially overtaxing local healthcare services

In times of COVID-19: Williams Lake university student studying in New Zealand

A Canadian student studying in New Zealand is in his second week… Continue reading

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

COVID-19: Social media use goes up as country stays indoors

Overall messaging is up more than 50 per cent over the last month

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

High cost, limited coverage for asthma medicine a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man says he skips puffs to save money, but others have it worse

Most Read