Yes, Bruce, There Will be a Second Chance

Given his history on treaty issues, Bruce Strachan’s column
No Second Chance for Lheidli T’enneh

on the failure of the Lheidli T’enneh to ratify their proposed treaty with Canada and BC contains no surprises. Like Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Mike de Jong, he thinks that the Lheidli T’enneh have blown their only chance at a treaty and will remain under the Indian Act forever. They’re both wrong.


Treaty negotiations are not, as Strachan thinks, a matter of noblesse oblige, a discretionary gesture of kindness toward the Indians. Rather, as the Supreme Court has ruled, they are the only viable route to a resolution of the untenable status quo, in which the tension between de facto colonial control and aboriginal rights goes unresolved. In the absence of treaties, aboriginal title remains a burden on the title of the Crown.

The failure of the Lheidli T’enneh to ratify the current proposal does not mean that they do not want a treaty. Not one Lheidli person has said such a thing, and all of the many Lheidli people I know want to see see a treaty signed. They just aren’t sure it should be this one. There may be additional demands in some areas, but the primary problem is uncertainty as to what the treaty will really mean and distrust of Canada and BC, a distrust that history shows to be well founded.

The treaty process includes the requirement for ratification by all of the parties for good reason, in order to ensure that what the negotiators have agreed to is actually satisfactory to the stakeholders. Failure of ratification does not mean an end to negotiation, merely the need to take stock and negotiate further.

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