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BC First Nations Plummet June 2004

BC First Nations Plummet June 2004

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Published by Russell Diabo
An article from my newsletter the FIRST NATIONS STRATEGIC BULLETIN
An article from my newsletter the FIRST NATIONS STRATEGIC BULLETIN

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Published by: Russell Diabo on Jun 12, 2012
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02/03/2013

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[Originally Published in the First Nations Strategic Bulletin: Volume 2, Issue 5 - June 30, 2004]OPINION: The B.C. First Nations Plummet - A
Source of Political Imbalance in National ‘Indian’ Politics and CrownGovernment Relations 
 
By Russell DiaboThe
First Nations Summit
has continually collaborated with the federalgovernment in order to implement national federal
self-government
,
landclaims
and
fiscal policies
, both in B.C. and across Canada. This is not initself surprising, since the First Nations Summit was a co-creation of thefederal and provincial governments, as well as a number of prominent B.C.Indian leaders.
 Who is the Summit?
In tracing the history of their own organization, the B.C. First Nations Summitidentifies the beginning in October, 1990, when,
“leaders of First Nations met with the Prime Minister of Canada and thenwith the Premier and Cabinet of British Columbia urging the appointment of a tripartite task force to develop a process for modern treaty negotiations in BC. The federal and provincial governments agreed and on December 3rd, 1990, the BC Claims Task Force was established by agreement of theGovernment of Canada, the Government of British Columbia, and representative leadership of the First Nations.” 
 The First Nations were a minority partner in this endeavour with threemembers on the BC Claims Task Force and then what became the BC TreatyCommission (BCTC), with one member each from the federal and provincialgovernments. And it was from this beginning that the First Nations Summit wasborn.
“The FNS is comprised of a majority of First Nations and Tribal Councils inBC and provides a forum for First Nations in British Columbia to address issues related to Treaty negotiations as well as other issues of commonconcern. As one of the principals of the treaty negotiation process along with Canada and BC, the First Nations Summit plays an important and ongoing role in ensuring that the process for conducting Treaty negotiations is accessible to all First Nations. However, the Summit does not participate in negotiations at individual treaty tables. Each treaty tableis autonomous in its negotiations.” 
 Since the
National Indian Brotherhood
was re-organized into the
 Assemblyof First Nations
in 1982. The B.C. region, particularly the coastal, lower
 
mainland and Northwestern sub-regions who would later form the B.C. FirstNations Summit, has exercised undue influence within the Assembly of FirstNations decision-making structures and over the elections of subsequentNational Chiefs and their respective election platforms.Under the existing AFN Structure the First Nations Summit represents a sourceof political imbalance at the national level that should be addressed by theFirst Nations Leaders from the other regions across the country.The ‘Nation-to-Nation’ relationship is being negatively impacted by thispolitical imbalance, because each First Nation has it’s own set of facts andpolitical-legal history with the Crown governments. Each First Nations hasrights that are now constitutionally protected, and for most First Nations it isthe people who are at the top of the decision-making process, not the Chiefs.However, the First Nations Summit is working with the federal government— both inside and outside of the AFN structure and meetings—to promote thefederal policies, legislation, principles and standards, including theestablishment of “National Institutions”, which are structures designed tofulfill long-term federal policy objectives . Although these governance, land claims, and fiscal “Institutions” andlegislation have largely been developed in Ottawa by the federalbureaucracy for application mainly in British Columbia, they are also the‘structures’ the federal government intends to use as part of their“management frameworkin their relationships/negotiations with FirstNations in other regions of Canada as well.These are “top-down” approaches, which are designed to pressure FirstNation leaders to convince their own First Nation peoples to ratify “once andfor all time” final agreements.Don’t forget about the—albeit heavily censored—release to the media of the“secretPre-Budget Deck prepared for Indian Affairs Minister, Andy Mitchell,before the February 2004, federal budget.The “secret” Deck warned of “
the looming tidal wave of major fiscalpressures
” due to the escalating costs of self-government, land claims andlitigation. The Deck recommended that the federal government develop a
resourcing action-plan geared toward promoting self-reliance
”.This may sound good on the surface, but what is meant in Ottawa terminologyis to settle land claims as quickly and cheaply as possible. It also entails off-loading the ongoing costs of programs and services onto provincial andmunicipal governments, as well as, onto the First Nations themselves, byencouraging and supporting their migration off-Reserve into towns and cities.The members of the First Nations Summit have so far, borrowedapproximately
$200 million
in loan funds through the BCTC process, tonegotiate land claims and self-government, and with such indebtedness thefederal and provincial governments seem to have the First Nations Summit
 
membership “over a barrel”. Once the meter is running the government usesthese loans as leverage to try and force First Nations to make concessions.
Federal Treaty Formula
One First Nations organization did an analysis of the basic formula inComprehensive Claims negotiations, which states:
Loans: The government “loans” you money to negotiate. In BC, theformula for negotiations is 80% loans, 20% grants. In other parts of thecountry, its 100% or slightly different variations. These loans are deducted from the final amount. In his 2001 Report, the Auditor-General of Canada expressed concern that,for some First Nations, the amount of their negotiation loans is approaching 50% of what they expect to get in a final settlement.Cash: Although the cash component of a final agreement is called “compensation”, it does not relate to the amount of Aboriginal lands and resources that were taken in the past. It’s not even tied to existing natural resource revenues from the territories in question. Instead, it is a fixed amount of around $25,000 per person (depending onhow much settlement land is involved—more land, less cash.) For a First Nation of 500 members, this would amount to a one-time payout of about $12.5 million, in exchange for giving up Aboriginal Rights and Title forever.
To put this amount into perspective, consider how much activities like hydro,forestry, mining and tourism generate per year within each First Nationterritory. This amount does not include how much has been taken out of eachFirst Nation territory since the 1600’s or the 1800’s, when European settlementand encroachment occurred, or how much will be taken out in the future.
Land: The land component, like the cash component, is within a range. From the most recent figures that have been made public [circa March2002], First Nations in BC are being offered on average about 9.29 hectares (23 acres) per person, in addition to any Reserve lands already held. Thereis some variation depending on provincial government policy, whether thelands are urban, rural, or remote (the more urban the less land). Theamount of land is also balanced against how much cash is on the table(more cash, less land). All Reserve status is to be given up. Settlement lands are to be held in “feesimple” by a First Nation corporation, and subject to federal, provincial and municipal laws. The corporation will replace the First Nation as theland holding entity, and this will formally break the link between the First Nation and its Aboriginal Title. These lands will become part of the provincial land system. These lands will become subject to taxation. (see below)

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