The Maa-nulth First Nations and British Columbia Leaders Forum was created as a result of a commitment made when the treaty was implemented on April 1, 2011 to stand with the Nations as a partner on a new path under the treaty. Last year was the first meeting of the two levels of government, and this year was even more successful than the inaugural meeting. In attendance were leaders from the Maa-nulth Nations – Councillor Wilfred Cootes (Uchucklesaht), President Chuck McCarthy (Yuulu?il?ath?), Chief Anne Mack (Toquaht), Chief Robert J. Dennis Sr. (Huu-ay-aht), and Legislative Chief Kevin Jules and Hereditary Chief Francis Gillette (Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Chek’tles7et’h’) – and representative from the Provincial Government – Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, Finance Minister Carol James, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy George Heyman, and Craig Sutherland, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
discussion started with a traditional welcoming and prayer, followed by a
welcome to the territory from Anne Mack. She said it’s encouraging to have so
many ministers present around the table and that shows the province is taking
their government-to-government meetings serious. Mack acknowledged the progress
the province has made recently in adopting the UNDRIP legislation. Although
this is a monumental act, the Maa-nulth nations are still dealing with several
challenges since implementation of the treaty.
of these challenges is financial, Mack explained. She pointed out that the
colonial mind is still alive and well and this means both parties at the table
must work harder to educate front-line workers on how to eliminate this from
their belief system.
acknowledge that there is lots of hard work ahead if us,” she said. “I look
forward to working on this together.”
also offered a welcoming. He used the Nuu-chah-nulth principle of Hišuk ma
c̕awak, explaining that he believes everything is connected and one, and that
by working together they will be stronger. He shared his believe that the
government-to-government forums will continue to get better year after year.
Minister Heyman could not stay for the whole day, climate change began the
official discussions of the day. He talked about the importance of including
indigenous knowledge when the Province draws up climate change initiatives. He
acknowledged that CleanBC could have consulted First Nations more in Phase One,
but that they will learn from this and reach out more to the communities. He
also stressed the importance of creating economic opportunities for First
Dennis brought up how much removing First Nations people from the land has
changed the ecosystem where they traditionally lived. The example he offered
was that when the seal hunt stopped sea urchins became more plentiful, and now
they are harming the kelp beds, which are important for overall health of the
ocean. He said there are many more examples of where the balance was disrupted
when First Nations left their land. He stressed the importance of returning the
balance by bringing Indigenous People back to their land. Scott Fraser
supported this idea stating that forestry and tourism could bring people home.
Cootes presented on the fiscal relationship. He said one big obstacle they must
overcome is the collaborative Fiscal Financing Agreement. He indicated that
during the negotiations in 2018/19 provincial negotiators repeatedly stated
that BC was committed to renewing its fiscal relationship with Maa-nulth
Nations. After lengthy negotiations, it is the belief of the Maa-nulth Nations
that BC’s offer of status quo funding would equal 0.3 to 0.6% of federal
funding for each year under the FFA. This offer was accepted under protest, but
the Maa-nulth Nations are still waiting for BC to negotiate more appropriate
this is a defining moment in the relationship between Maa-nulth Nations and the
Province. He asked on behalf of the other Nations that the Province:
to some of the cost associated with participating in the provincial
collaborative fiscal financing process
empower their team with a strong mandate to deliver on the work we are doing
a realistic and clear timeline to complete the work.
up by stating that it is the hope of the Maa-nulth Nations that the relationship
they have with the province be repaired, because when First Nations succeeds
Carol James were both supportive of this statement, adding that it’s not just
about giving money but about creating opportunities to build a strong economy
with benefits for all.
explained to the ministers gathered that road access to the Treaty Settlement
Land needs significant upgrades in order to allow the Nations to fully utilize
the rights and benefits of the treaty. He pointed out that safety concerns mean
that the discussion needs to be how the safety improvements will be made. It
can no longer be about whether or not it can be done.
the primary route to Maa-nulth lands are forest service roads, they are maintained
with heavy industry in mind and are often unsafe for residents. Citizens and
other people who travel the road deserve a safe, reliable way to get supplies
and services, as well as offering a corridor that will open up their regions to
tourism opportunities. Instead, the roads are prone to eroded corners and
edges, flooding, washouts, and poor visibility.
asked that B.C. commit in writing the co-development of a work plan to:
seal the Bamfield Road
the reliability and safety of the Fair Harbour Road
road safety including:
to support consultation, engineering reporting, work plan development, and
implementation of road improvements
timelines for the co-development work plan, funding, and completion of
study to consider alternate routes to the communities.
recommended creating written standards and criteria for road maintenance,
increase the budget for maintenance and improvements, implement safety measures,
and ensure all improvements take into consideration the wet conditions on the
Claire Trevena said they are aware of the issues raised and are not ignoring
them. She said the ministry is interested in working on relationship building
and possible partnerships with the Nations to help address the road concerns.
natural resources consultant Ron Frank brought groundwater to the table,
pointing out that the Maa-nulth Treaty makes provisions for addressing
groundwater that requires BC to negotiate and attempt to reach agreement with
Maa-nulth as the Province was regulating groundwater in February 2016. Despite
this, the Province came to the table in 2018 unprepared to negotiate.
Maa-nulth Nations are concerned because they are the most underfunded
self-government in Canada, and yet they are expected to address groundwater on
their own now. The Province has:
little commitment to resolving this vital issue
unwilling to provide a mandate, an experienced negotiator, or a senior official
to take the lead
to adequately fund the acquisition of scientific and technical groundwater data
that would facilitate or adequately fund the negotiation.
Maa-nulth Nations are asking for BC to:
that the resolution of groundwater issues is a critical policy objective in the
reconciliation construct that guides provincial relations with FN and recognize
that the Maa-nulth-BC table will be provide a template for future relations
with other First Nations.
the person best qualified to successfully negotiate groundwater
prepared to make a reasonable financial commitment for scientific work and
the above in a timely fashion.
said he is more than aware of the challenges facing the group, but together
they can find money to meet treaty obligations. Fraser also reassured the
Nations that he will advocate for more funding.
of the Treaty Wildlife Chapter and Wildlife Population Management
pointed out that when it comes to wildlife, the treaty nations have many common
struggles, and the key is to work collaboratively to find ways that everyone
will benefit. It is essential that everyone be engaged when it comes to the
importance of wildlife. He said the Maa-nulth Nations are doing what they need
to be doing, and the Ministry needs to focus on the priorities that would
support that work.
each member at the table received had a detailed list of 11 specific
recommendations, but the key is that an increase in human, financial, and
infrastructural resources is needed. After some discussion, the everyone agreed
to work on the 11 recommendations and bring a report back to the next
government-to-government forum in 2020 to see what progress has been made.
At the end
of the meeting each representative was given a chance to offer closing
statements. The common thread in all their comments was the desire to work
together to ensure the best interest of the Maa-nulth Nations is the focus.
Most people spoke of coming up with creative ways to make things work for
everyone involved and the desire to continue to meet on a regular basis. Several
people spoke of the importance of building relationships and the effectiveness
of the Maa-nulth Treaty in negotiations.