The province recognizes that communities must be consulted and informed if treaties are to be successful.
Provincial negotiators develop strategic consultation plans that outline issue-specific discussions with stakeholders from different sectors and discussions with community and local government representatives. As well, reference groups may be established to review specific policy initiatives.
This approach is cost effective and reflects the focus of the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation on opportunities for success.
Provincial Policy for Consultation with First Nations
In 1982, Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, recognized and affirmed existing Aboriginal rights. Court decisions have clarified the nature of existing Aboriginal rights and, as a consequence, redefined the legal relationship between the Government of British Columbia and Aboriginal peoples. In short, government activities cannot infringe existing Aboriginal rights unless there is proper justification.
In addition, the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw discusses Aboriginal title, adding new factors that must be considered during consultation with First Nations.
Most recently, the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Haida First Nation v. BC and Weyerhaeuser and Taku River Tlingit First Nation v. the BC Government and Redfern Resources Ltd. provided a clearer understanding of the rights and responsibilities of the governments and the necessity to consult and accommodate First Nations interests. The court reaffirmed that negotiating in good faith is the best means to reach long-term solutions and further defined what constitutes proper consultation and accommodation.
In March 2005, the Province began meetings with representatives of the First Nations Summit, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations to develop new approaches for consultation and accommodation, and a vision for a New Relationship to deal with Aboriginal concerns based on openness, transparency and collaboration – one that reduces uncertainty, litigation and conflict for all British Columbians.
A five-page document, outlining the vision and principles of the New Relationship, was developed as a result of these meetings. It raises the topic of a new government-to-government relationship with First Nations, including new processes and structures for coordination, and working together to make decisions about the use of land and resources.
The document proposes discussion of revenue-sharing to reflect Aboriginal rights and title interests and to assist First Nations with economic development. In addition, the document sets out a plan for developing scenarios under which these concepts could be made to work.
The New Relationship (PDF 13KB)
Since this document was signed, the First Nations Leadership Council and the Province have been working together on a new consultation and accommodation framework.