Why Treaty?

As the Europeans settled across Canada, treaties were signed with the various nations across the country. In the 1850s, James Douglas the governor of the colony of Vancouver Island entered into 14 treaties, Treaty 8 and the Douglas Treaties. These treaties involved reserve lands and other compensation.

After 1854, no further treaties were signed as a result of a dispute over who would bear the cost of such settlements, the colony, the Imperial government, or Hudson's Bay Company. To this day the K’ómoks First Nation (KFN) people do not hold title to their reserve lands. The land is held in trust by the Government of Canada.

Aboriginal Rights and Title are unextinguished throughout the traditional territory. A treaty will settle outstanding issues around Aboriginal Rights and Title.

Most of the land in the southern portion of the KFN territory have been sold to private land holders. We need to protect the existing crown lands.

How did we get involved with the Treaty Process?

Since the beginning of the treaty process in 1992, the KFN has been involved in treaty negotiations.

A first survey was conducted among the KFN people on July 20, 1999. The survey consisted of two questions:

  1. Are you in favour of the Comox Nation entering into the British Columbia Treaty Commission process? y/n
  2. Are you in favour of the Comox Nation sharing its negotiating table with the Nations of the Kwakiutl Laich-Kwil-Tach Council of Chiefs?

The results of this survey are as follows:

  1. Yes – 87%
    No – 10%
    Undecided – 3%
  2. Yes – 77%
    No – 17%
    Undecided – 4%
    No Answer – 2%

A second survey, which included more specific questions, was done later that year in November 1999. As a result of that survey and with the consent of the people, the Chief and Council at the time decided to continue on with treaty negotiations.

The K’ómoks First Nation participated in treaty negotiations with Hamatla Treaty Society (HTS). In 2007 KFN left HTS to negotiate for our own people in our own territory. The KFN established a treaty team. We have been working to negotiate the best deal for the KFN people. Negotiations with the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia have involved chapters in the AIP to define Aboriginal Rights.

What is the Treaty process?

There are six stages in the BC Treaty Process:

Stage 1: Statement of Intent to Negotiate
A First Nation files with the Treaty Commission a Statement of Intent (SOI) to negotiate a treaty with Canada and BC. The SOI must identify the First Nation's governing body for treaty purposes and the people that body represents and show that the governing body has a mandate from those people to enter the process. The SOI must describe the geographic area of the First Nation's distinct traditional territory and identify any overlaps with other First Nations.

Stage 2: Readiness To Negotiate
The Treaty Commission must convene an initial meeting of the three parties within 45 days of accepting a statement of intent. For most First Nations, this will be the first occasion on which they sit down at a treaty table with representatives of Canada and BC. This meeting allows the Treaty Commission and the parties to exchange information, consider the criteria for determining the parties' readiness to negotiate and generally identify issues of concern. The meeting usually takes place in the traditional territory of the First Nation. The three parties must demonstrate that they have a commitment to negotiate, a qualified negotiator, sufficient resources, a mandate and a process to develop that mandate and ratification procedures. The First Nation must have begun addressing any overlaps. The governments of Canada and BC must have a formal means of consulting with third parties, including local governments and interest groups. When the three parties have everything in place, the Treaty Commission will declare the table ready to begin negotiating a framework agreement.

Stage 3: Negotiation of a Framework Agreement
The framework agreement is, in effect, the "table of contents" of a comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four agreement-in-principle negotiations. Canada and BC engage in public consultation at the regional and local levels. A municipal representative sits on the provincial negotiation team at each treaty table.

Stage 4: Negotiation of an Agreement in Principle
Since 2007 the K’ómoks First Nation has been in Stage 4
This is where substantive treaty negotiations begin. The three parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement. The goal is to reach agreement on each of the topics that will form the basis of the treaty. These agreements will identify and define a range of rights and obligations, including: existing and future interests in land, sea and resources; structures and authorities of government; relationship of laws; regulatory processes; amending processes; dispute resolution; financial component; fiscal relations and so on. The agreement in principle also lays the groundwork for implementation of the treaty.

Stage 5: Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty
The treaty formalizes the new relationship among the parties and embodies the agreements reached in the agreement in principle. Technical and legal issues are resolved at this stage. A treaty is a unique constitutional instrument to be signed and formally ratified at the conclusion of Stage 5.

Stage 6: Implementation of the Treaty
Long-term implementation plans need to be tailored to specific agreements. The plans to implement the treaty are put into effect or phased in as agreed. With time, all aspects of the treaty will be realized and with continuing goodwill, commitment and effort by all parties, the new relationship will come to maturity.

What are our options?

Option 1: The Status Quo
The Status Quo means living under the Indian Act system.

  • The Minister of Indian Affairs has final say over everything.
  • Chief and Council are accountable to the Minister of Indian Affairs.
  • We have limited authority over our limited land base on Indian reserves that we don't own.
  • We are dependent on government policies and programs with no guarantee of funding.
  • Others operate our businesses and we are "accommodated".
  • No change in our basic situation.

Option 2: Litigation
Litigation means going to court with either BC or Canada to try and obtain ownership of lands and resources.

  • Litigation is costly and time consuming.
  • There are no guaranteed results.
  • We don't want the courts to define our rights.
  • It will always lead back to negotiations.

Option 3: Treaty
With treaty the KFN will have an opportunity to define our rights and title as we think they should be. 

  • We will be self-sufficient and self-governing with law-making authority.
  • We will have ownership and control over lands and resources.
  • We can incorporate our own values and traditional forms of government in our own constitutions.
  • We will have ownership and control over additional lands and resources.
  • We will have on-going financial benefits and economic opportunities.
  • We can control our own lives.
  • We can make decisions based on the needs of our people.