The six-stage treaty process is set out in the BC Claims Task Force Report of 1991 and incorporated in the tripartite British Columbia Treaty Commission Agreement of 1992. The process is voluntary and open to all First Nations in British Columbia.
Stage 1 – Statement of intent to negotiate
A First Nation files with the B.C. Treaty Commission a statement of intent to negotiate with Canada and B.C. The statement of intent:
- identifies the First Nation’s governing body and the people that body represents
- shows that the governing body has a mandate to enter the treaty process
- describes the geographic area of the First Nation’s traditional territory in B.C.
- identifies any overlaps in territory with other First Nations.
Stage 2 – Readiness to negotiate
The Treaty Commission must convene an initial meeting of the three parties within 45 days of receiving a statement of intent. For most First Nations, this will be the first occasion on which they sit down at a treaty table with representatives of Canada and BC. This meeting allows the Treaty Commission and the parties to exchange information, consider the criteria for determining the parties’ readiness to negotiate and generally identify issues of concern. Each party must demonstrate that it has:
- a commitment to negotiate
- a qualified negotiator who has been given a clear mandate
- sufficient resources to undertake negotiations
- a ratification procedure.
In addition, the First Nation must have a plan for addressing any issues of overlapping territory with neighboring First Nations. The governments of Canada and B.C. must have a formal means of consulting with other parties, including local governments and interest groups.
Stage 3 – Negotiation of a framework agreement
The three parties negotiate a framework agreement, which identifies the issues to be negotiated, goals, procedures and a timetable for negotiations. Canada and B.C. engage in public consultation at the regional and local levels. The parties establish a public information program that will continue throughout the negotiations.
Stage 4 – Negotiation of an agreement in principle
The three parties examine in detail the issues identified in the framework agreement, with the goal of reaching an agreement in principle. The agreement in principle identifies and defines a range of rights and obligations, and forms the basis for the treaty. The parties also begin to plan for implementation of the treaty.
Stage 5 – Negotiation to finalize a treaty
Technical and legal issues are resolved to produce a final agreement that embodies the principles outlined in the agreement in principle and formalizes the new relationship among the parties. The treaty formalizes the new relationship among the parties and embodies the agreements reached in the Agreement in Principle. Once signed and formally ratified, the final agreement becomes a treaty.
Stage 6 – Implementation of the treaty
Plans to implement the treaty are put into effect or phased in as agreed. Long-term implementation plans need to be tailored to specific agreements. The table remains active in order to oversee implementation of the treaty.