The Nisga`a Agreement 1996

The Nisga`a Agreement, also known as the Nisga`a Treaty, is a contract between the Nisg-a, the Government of British Columbia and the Government of Canada, signed on May 27, 1998 and entered into force on May 11, 2000. [1] In the wet valley, nearly 2,000 km2 of land has been officially recognized as Nisg`a[2] and a water reserve of 300,000 cubic centimeters (× about 240,000 acre-feet) has been created. Bear Glacier Provincial Park was also created as a result of this agreement. Thirty-one Nisga`a place names in the region have been officially named. [3] The Land-Claim Colony was the first formal treaty of the modern era in the province – the first signed by a First Nation nation in British Columbia since the De Douglas contracts in 1854 (for the Vancouver Island territories) and Treaty 8 in 1899 (in northeastern British Columbia). The agreement gives the Nisga`a control of their country, including the forest and fisheries resources it contains. Once completed, the treaty will first have to be ratified by the Nisga`a in a referendum, then by Parliament and the B.C. But this process promises to be stormy. The opposition Liberals, who have promised to vote against the agreement in the B.C legislation, accuse Nisga`a of giving powers that, in some areas, will exceed those of federal or provincial governments. And indeed, part of section 27 of the draft agreement – published on a government website – says, “If there is an inconsistency between nisga`a laws and federal and provincial laws of general application, nisga`a laws will prevail.” (The section only applies to a handful of domains, including Nisga`a`s culture and language.) According to the Liberals, the agreement will also limit the right to vote on the national territory to the inhabitants of Nisga`a. “This is clearly a racist argument,” says President Gordon Campbell.

“You say that some people have rights that others do not have because of race. I don`t see what else you call. The Nisga`a Treaty is an agreement negotiated between the Nisga`a Nation, the Government of British Columbia (B.C.) and the Government of Canada. It came into force on May 11, 2000. Under pressure from all parties, the three parts of the B.C Contract Committee are meeting this week to discuss the negotiation process. The most likely formula would be for land and resource transfers to be at the top of the agenda – giving groups an important part of reaching agreements earlier – while then overseeing legal issues as sensitive as the definition of self-management. Optimistic John Watson, B.C. Regional Director for the Federal Department of Indian Affairs, says an improved contract process could work as early as the fall. “People are now realizing,” Watson says, “that there is an economic imperative to get contracts.” Maybe. But they remain far removed from almost all other apples of contention.

And since the Nisga`a pact will certainly become a test from any other point of view, people in the water might have to wait a little longer before they can really celebrate their long-awaited contract.