An agreement between the Ktunaxa Nation and the provincial and federal governments is being hailed as a significant step towards treaty negotiation and reconciliation.
The memorandum of understanding will guide all three parties in the development of a rights recognition approach to a treaty, as well as recognizing the Ktunaxa Nation Council as the legal government and rights-holder of the Ktunaxa First Nation.
The memorandum was signed by Kathryn Teneese, chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and Scott Fraser, BC’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
“I am very pleased that the three parties have agreed to adopt an approach that explicitly and properly recognizes our inherent rights as Ktunaxa,” said Teneese. “This agreement ensures the ongoing relationship between the Ktunaxa and provincial and federal governments will be based on mutual respect and understanding and is a key step on the path towards reconciliation.”
Agreeing to a rights recognition approach acknowledges that aboriginal rights are inherent and cannot be extinguished or surrendered, while also seeking to build a collaborative and predicable government-to-government relationship.
Under such an approach, the parties have agreed to develop a core treaty and move directly to the last stage of treaty negotiations.
“This agreement is a product of government listening to the Ktunaxa Nation and taking a collaborative, flexible approach,” said Fraser.
“With the Ktunaxa Nation and the federal government, we are on path to design a treaty that respects and recognizes aboriginal title and rights and lives up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This partnership supports B.C.’s ongoing efforts to transform treaties to better reflect our growing and evolving relationship with First Nations.”
Under the agreed framework, key elements such as self-government, land ownership and stewardship and law making authority will be written into a constitutionally protected core treaty. Supplementary agreements will address administrative and policy matters that can be more easily amended, allowing for government relationships to evolve as laws, polices and interests change.
“This memorandum with Ktunaxa Nation is a clear example of the innovative and flexible approaches that we are taking to transform the crown-indigenous relationship,” said Bennett.
“We are committed to working together to develop a new recognition of rights approach with this community, one that includes a core treaty approach and, importantly, a legal recognition of the Ktunaxa Nation.”
The traditional territory of the Ktunaxa Nation covers much of the southeastern corner of the province, including member communities such as ʔakisq̓nuk (Akisqnuk) First Nation, ʔakink̓umǂasnuqǂiʔit (Tobacco Plains Indian Band), ʔaq̓am (St. Mary’s) and yaqan nuykiy (Lower Kootenay Band).