The Six Stages of the Treaty Process
The BC Treaty Process is a 6-stage process designed to guide British Columbian First Nations through their individual treaty making journeys with the governments of Canada and BC. The process is managed by the BC Treaty Commission (BCTC), an organization that is independent of First Nations and Government.
The BCTC makes sure negotiations are productive, and encourages Gitga’at First Nation, Canada, and BC to follow fair procedure. It also manages the funding arrangement between First Nations in the Treaty process and government and provides other supports to First Nations and government like mediation and facilitation.
- 1Statement of Intent During the Statement of Intent (SOI) stage, the First Nation informs the BCTC and the Federal and Provincial governments of their interest in Treaty negotiations. The First Nation, Canada, and BC decide if they are ready to negotiate. A First Nation’s Statement of Intent must describe their traditional territory, including a map.
- 2Preparations for Negotiations The First Nation, Federal Government, and Provincial Government prepare the materials and employees they need for the negotiation process. The parties must be prepared to give a description of their interests, needs, and goals for Treaty.
- 3Negotiation of Framework Agreement A framework agreement is like a table of contents of a treaty. It will outline the subjects to be negotiated, and create a timeframe for Stage 4 negotiations.
- 4Negotiation of an Agreement-In-Principle (Gitga’at AIP) Gitga’at First Nation is currently in Stage 4 – Negotiation of an Agreement in Principle (AIP). An AIP is like a detailed overview of a Final Treaty (The Gitga’at Treaty). The details of the Gitga’at Treaty begin to be worked out, including legal descriptions of our Aboriginal Rights and Title. The AIP can be very similar to the Gitga’at Treaty, but not all issues described in the AIP will be agreed to. The AIP describes the specifics of Gitga’at First Nation’s rights. This includes who, how, where and when our rights can be expressed. The AIP will also include maps that show hunting, fishing, and gathering areas across the territory, and where we own land. Additionally, Canada and British Columbia will provide a detailed land and cash offer for the Nation to consider and negotiate. Just like the AIP, the land and cash offer is a work in progress and is still under intense negotiation. In Final Treaty negotiations, it is certain that the land and cash aspect will be different than at the AIP stage.During the negotiation of the Gitga’at AIP, Gitga’at First Nation, Canada, and BC identify where there are agreements and disagreements, building a roadmap for Final Treaty Agreement negotiations.Any major disagreements that can’t be sorted out in AIP will carry over into the following stage of negotiations, Stage 5 – Negotiation of a Final Treaty. Gitga’at First Nation (GFN) is not obligated to enter into Negotiation of the Gitga’at Treaty after we complete the Gitga’at AIP. The Gitga’at AIP is not legally binding, which means that the agreement can and will be changed in Final Treaty negotiations. Agreement to conclude the AIP in order to move into Final Treaty negotiations does not mean that Gitga’at is then obligated to agree to all the terms in the AIP. Final Treaty negotiations will deal with outstanding issues from the AIP and also allows GFN, Canada or BC to introduce new interests if necessary.
The conclusion of the Gitga’at AIP will allow the Gitga’at First Nation a look at an early draft of the essential elements of what will eventually become the Gitga’at Treaty. A completed AIP is seen by many First Nations as an important step towards fully understanding the risks and benefits of concluding a Treaty. Equally important, the completed AIP allows us to work together to identify any key Gitga’at interests that may have been missed or need to be changed in AIP and that will be negotiated further in Final Treaty negotiations.
- 5Negotiation of Final Treaty (Gitga’at Treaty) Stage 5 is the stage where any major differences and outstanding issues in the AIP are addressed in detail, including land, money, and Rights.Stage 5 is concluded when Gitga’at, Canada, and BC sign the complete agreement. Gitga’at, BC, and then Canada must each go through their own process to signify that Final Treaty is approved by their membership. In Gitga’at’s case, the community will begin an exhaustive process to decide in favor or against the Treaty. This process will end in a vote to accept or reject the Treaty. All eligible Gitga’at voters will have the opportunity to vote on whether to approve the Treaty or not. If Gitga’at members approve the Gitga’at Treaty by voting in favor of it in a referendum, then it will be implemented over a number of years, and the Treaty process will move on to Stage 6. If the Gitga’at Treaty is not approved in the referendum, the Gitga’at Treaty will not be implemented.
- 6Implementation of a Treaty A Treaty is an agreement that defines Gitga’at First Nation’s Aboriginal Rights and Title, our government’s relationships with other governments and organizations, and a cash settlement. Implementation is the process that puts this agreement into action by forming a government, drafting laws to govern the actions of the government with rights to managing land and marine resource, and establishing relationships with other governments and organizations. Though some changes will happen quickly, others will take a long time. Education about the Treaty will continue throughout the implementation process to make sure that members understand what the Treaty means for them and the First Nation.