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BC First Nations Leadership Council praises Haida land title agreement

The FNLC says the signing will set a precedent for collaboration with the Crown, not litigation
Premier David Eby, Haida Nation Council President Gaagwiis (Jason Alsop), Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Murray Rankin and Haida Nation Council Vice-President Stephen Grosse (not pictured) signed the “Gaayhllxid/Gíihlagalgang ‘Rising Tide’ Haida Title Lands Agreement” in Haida Gwaii on April 14, 2024. The First Nations Leadership Council commended the provincial government and the Haida Nation for the agreement. (Government of B.C./YouTube)

The First Nations Leadership Council has praised the recently signed Haida “Rising Tide” land agreement, while also calling on the federal government to reach similar agreements.

The agreement — which will give the Haida Nation title over their traditional territory — was tabled at the B.C. legislature on April 22, and will soon become law.

First Nations Summit political executive Robert Phillips praised the Haida Nation and the B.C. government for an agreement he said “sets up a process so that they can work together, government to government.”

Phillips said the government worked proactively with the Haida Nation, rather than resorting to litigation, which he said results in negative outcomes for both parties.

“Just by looking at our history, when we do protests or when we go to court, what eventually happens [is] negotiations,” Phillips said in an interview with The Northern View.

“It’s celebrated because the alternative is more court cases, more protests.”

The agreement — which Phillips said was “decades in the making” — was also important to move past basic recognition and begin action from the government, according to Phillips.

“I do believe that recognition of Aboriginal title is great. When we’re on the lands, we recognize the land. But this is actually implementation, so they have a process, government to government and it could be utilized as an example for the rest of Canada and throughout British Columbia,” Phillips said.

“This is a very important agreement that can serve and potentially impact treaty negotiations, but the Haida made it very clear, this is not a treaty, it’s an agreement for their governing body.”

Phillips said the historic agreement will allow the Nation to steward their land more effectively in collaboration with the B.C. government.

“With this governing body set up, the land will be taken care of,” he said.

“We need to set up something so that there’s a coexistence of laws and land management.”

He said the agreement will also be a step toward fulfilling the recommendations of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Gary Anandasangaree was in attendance when the bill was tabled, and Phillips hopes similar agreements will soon be made in the federal arena.

President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip also celebrated the agreement.

“For years the Supreme Court of Canada has clearly and repeatedly called on the Crown to negotiate with First Nations to reconcile their rights and interests with those of the broader public. Despite this, and in violation of domestic and international law, the Crown has long sought to deny First Nations our most basic inherent, constitutional, and human rights through costly and deeply offensive court proceedings,” Phillip said in a press release.

“Today is an incredible step forward toward addressing the deep colonial harms that have been waged upon our people and jointly creating a path forward.”

The First Nations Leadership Council comprises the political executives of British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

READ MORE: B.C. tables legislation to recognize ‘historic’ title of Haida Nation

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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