Fri, 05 Jul 2002
OTTAWA - Federal Indian Affairs Minister Robert Nault says treaty talks with British Columbia's First Nations won't get far if the province refuses to acknowledge historic rights. ·
The Supreme Court has ruled that native self-government is an inherent right, Nault says, and it can't be delegated by Ottawa or individual provinces. On Wednesday, British Columbia released the results of a mail-in referendum on treaty talks. Premier Gordon Campbell said the results give his government the mandate to enter a "new era" of negotiations with native leaders. ·
Among other things, the province proposes recognizing First Nations with municipal-style governments only. In other words, sweeping powers like granting citizenship or running a justice system would not be granted.
But for most of B.C.'s aboriginal leaders, the idea of treating their communities as town or cities is unacceptable. On Friday, Nault agreed with them.
"We don't believe that municipal-style type government for First Nations is on," Nault said. "We were down that road many years ago, and it's not been effective, nor will it work." B.C. did not have the authority to hold a referendum on whether to change "legal obligations to First Nations people in this country," according to Nault.
Critics have said the referendum –– estimated to have cost B.C. about $9 million –– was a waste of time and money. They said the ballot asked a series of loaded questions about emotionally charged issues, and noted that only about one third of the people eligible to vote even bothered to respond. Aboriginal leaders have said they want to resume negotiations. But it's not clear if talks will go ahead now that the provincial government has decided future treaties should be restricted by the results of its referendum.
Copyright © 2002 and written by CBC News Online staff
Copyright © 2002 Jasen Benwah
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