Our Lands - Our Story
The Klahoose First Nation is negotiating a treaty with BC and Canada. This page provides background information about the treaty negotiations to help members understand why Klahoose is involved in treaty negotiations, what we will achieve if we sign a treaty, and how a treaty will affect Klahoose and Klahoose members.
Members can contact Kathy Francis, Klahoose chief negotiator,
at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-935-6536 ext 241 for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a treaty?
A treaty (sometimes also referred to as a “Final Agreement”) is a formal, legally binding agreement between an Indigenous Nation, BC and Canada that defines how the three governments will work together into the future. A treaty will include terms covering:
Land that BC and Canada will transfer to Klahoose. These lands will be owned by Klahoose and managed for the benefit of the Nation.
Payments from BC and Canada to Klahoose. A treaty will include both one-time payments to Klahoose when the treaty is signed, as well as ongoing commitments from BC and Canada to continue funding and supporting Klahoose into the future.
Klahoose self-government powers. A treaty will describe the powers that Klahoose will have as a self-governing Indigenous Nation.
Klahoose aboriginal rights and title. A treaty will clarify how, when and where Klahoose members can continue to exercise aboriginal rights and title in Klahoose territory.
How the treaty can be updated. A treaty will include terms about how Klahoose, BC and Canada can update the agreement to reflect new needs or circumstances.
Those are the major issues addressed in a treaty; however, a treaty is typically a long, complex document that will cover a wide range of things, not all of which are included in the list above (to find an example of a treaty, go to the Tla'amin Treaty information page to find a copy of the full Tla’amin treaty).
Importantly, once a treaty has been agreed to and implemented by Klahoose, BC and Canada, it will be protected by section 35 of the Constitution, which is the highest law in the country. This means that BC and Canada cannot change the treaty without Klahoose’s consent. It also means that Klahoose will be able to legally enforce the treaty in court, if required.
Why is Klahoose negotiating a treaty?
Right now, Klahoose does not own or control its reserve lands. We have to seek approval from Indigenous Services Canada when we want to build or develop our lands. We also do not have status as a self-governing Indigenous Nation. We operate under the Indian Act, and have to obey laws and rules set by Ottawa on everything from how we spend our money, to how we build houses on our reserves.
Treaty will change all this. It will move Klahoose out from underneath Ottawa’s control, and recognize Klahoose as a self-governing Indigenous Nation with power over our own lands and affairs. The Indian Act will no longer apply to our lands, members or activities. We will elect our own government, which will manage our affairs for the good of the Nation and all members. We will also control our lands, including both our current reserves as well as new lands that we acquire through treaty.
Treaty is therefore about Klahoose taking control of its land, government and destiny as a self-governing Indigenous people. That is why we are negotiating with BC and Canada.
What are the steps involved in negotiating a treaty?
In BC, the treaty negotiation process is supervised by the BC Treaty Commission. It has a six-stage process that begins when an Indigenous Nation formally agrees to enter treaty negotiations - see BCTC Negotiations and Stages for more information. The first three stages are all about getting ready to negotiate. The real work starts at stage four, which is when the parties negotiate what is known as an “Agreement in Principle” or AIP. An AIP sets out a lot of the details that will be in the final treaty, and typically includes an initial “land and cash” offer from BC and Canada that identifies the lands that will be transferred as part of treaty, as well as the payments BC and Canada will make. After an AIP, the parties finalize the full details of the treaty in stage five, followed by implementation of the treaty at stage six. Implementation would involve a vote by Klahoose members to approve the treaty, as well as BC and Canada passing legislation to give the treaty legal effect.
The BCTC six stage process has been followed by most Indigenous Nations who have modern treaties in BC. However, more recently some Indigenous Nations have been skipping the AIP stage, or at least reducing the amount of time spent in negotiating an AIP, and moving to stage five to negotiate the final terms of the treaty. Even if the process is shortened, however, treaty negotiations take a long time, and require a big commitment of time and resources.
Where is Klahoose in the treaty negotiation process?
Klahoose has been formally involved in the treaty process for a long time. Negotiations started back in 1994 when Klahoose submitted a map of Klahoose territory and agreed to start the negotiation process. However, Klahoose suspended its involvement in the treaty negotiations in [Kathy to insert date], and no negotiations took place for many years. This is because the approach BC and Canada were taking to treaty negotiations at that time was not acceptable to Klahoose. Rather than keep moving forward with a flawed process, Klahoose suspended the negotiations.
Negotiations restarted in 2009 when Klahoose and BC signed an agreement called an “Incremental Treaty Agreement” or ITA. Under the ITA, BC gave Klahoose money to buy TLF 10 in the Toba River valley. The TFL was at that time owned by a private company that wanted to log the valley without our consent or involvement. Klahoose instead bought the TFL, and then transferred it into a Community Forest Agreement or CFA, which has provided huge economic and employment benefits to the Nation. In return for this funding, Klahoose agreed to return to the treaty table, and negotiations restarted. A link to the ITA is found here.
Klahoose is now at the AIP negotiation stage. We have settled approximately 90% of the language of the AIP chapters, and the next important stage is for BC and Canada to table what is called a “land and cash offer”. The land and cash offer would identify the lands to be transferred to Klahoose, as well as the payments BC and Canada will make to Klahoose under the treaty. In 2019, Klahoose made a land selection proposal to BC and Canada (more information on how that proposal was developed is below), and in 2020 - 2021 we worked with BC to clearly define the land parcels we want to acquire. However, further work on the land proposal has been stalled by Canada. In order for BC and Canada to make Klahoose a land and cash offer, they have to (among other things) negotiate an agreement regarding how they will share the costs of that offer. BC is ready to discuss that agreement, but Canada does not have enough staff to do the work at their end. We are therefore continuing to do work on the AIP chapters until Canada is ready to develop a land and cash offer.
What value does Klahoose get out of treaty while these negotiations go on?
Klahoose has already gained significant benefit from the 2009 ITA. We now own the largest forestry license in our territory, have management control of the forest in the Toba valley, and generate significant economic value to support the Klahoose community. However, given how long treaty negotiations are taking, as well as the delays caused by Canada, the Klahoose treaty negotiation team recently initiated discussions with BC on what is called “pre-treaty land transfers”. This would involve Klahoose and BC identifying lands that will be transferred to Klahoose soon, before the treaty is finalized, so that we can own and benefit from the lands now and not just in the future after treaty negotiations finally conclude.
The pre-treaty land transfer negotiations are confidential. However, as of April 2022 we have identified lands for transfer and had initial discussions with BC are very positive and indicate a strong willingness to work with Klahoose to help us acquire lands now, while treaty negotiations are ongoing.
How is the community involved in these decisions regarding treaty negotiations?
Klahoose Chief and Council are responsible for overseeing and directing the Klahoose treaty negotiation team. Chief and Council are committed to keeping members updated, and involving members at key decision stages in the negotiations. In the lead up to the 2019 Klahoose land proposal, the treaty team and Chief and Council did extensive consultation with the community. Community members, elders and knowledge holders participated in workshops to identify our priorities and possible land parcels to acquire. The treaty team then used that information to generate maps, which were presented at workshops in Squirrel Cove, Powell River, Vancouver, Victoria and Campbell River for more member input. Chief and Council also hired a consultant, Urban Systems, to prepare a survey of members to identify member needs and priorities for land acquisition.
Chief and Council will be returning to the community to seek further input and direction once BC and Canada have made a land and cash offer, and we have a better picture of what a future treaty may look like. If we do move forward and negotiate a full draft treaty, Klahoose members will also be asked to vote on whether to accept that treaty. Klahoose members therefore will have the final say on whether to accept a treaty, or not.
How is Klahoose paying for all this?
Treaty negotiations are funded by BC and Canada. Klahoose is not taking out loans or incurring any debt to finance the negotiations. In 2019, Canada also agreed to forgive any debt that Klahoose had accumulated to fund treaty negotiations since 1994.
Does treaty mean we will lose our rights and status cards?
No. Treaties have changed a lot since the days when an Indigenous Nation was forced to surrender all their rights and title in return for a few pieces of reserve land. Signing a treaty will not require Klahoose to surrender our title or rights. BC and Canada are now agreeing to language in treaties that confirms that Indigenous title and rights continue to exist after treaty. Klahoose members will also not lose “Indian” status after treaty, and will continue to qualify for all programs funded by Canada or BC that support Indigenous people. Canada will also continue to fund Klahoose to deliver programs and services to our members.
However, some things will change after treaty. Klahoose will have its own constitution, government and power over its affairs, lands and members. Klahoose will be able to approve developments, tax non-members on Klahoose lands, and generate revenue from an expanded tax base. Klahoose rights - such as fishing, hunting and harvesting - will continue but will be exercised by Klahoose members in accordance with the rules and standards set out in the treaty. The current tax exempt status may also change; however, that is still being negotiated, and any changes that do happen would likely be phased in over time.