Treaty can’t put fish back in the sea

Editor, The Record

Re: A decade on, treaty no panacea (B.C. Views, July 7).

I am not Nisga’a, but I did live in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) for nearly three years and the following points I had observed, or had been told by some Nisga’a people:

• The treaty land area is only five per cent of the traditional land area, making it difficult for Nisga’a to benefit from resource extractive industries in the area. In particular, the current trend to export whole logs from timber areas makes it difficult, if not impossible, to generate ‘value-added employment’ opportunities.

• Because the land area is so small, it is unlikely that Nisga’a will be able to derive any income from royalties from mining activities on lands adjacent to the treatied lands.

• Many governments, Canada included, expect First Nations people to fully fund their social service from the royalties that can be assessed against resource-extractive industries. The small land area, and the fact that the fisheries were over-fished by non-native people in the past, makes this sort of income unlikely into the future. This funding burden is not placed on the general community and represents a form of discrimination.

• Governments tend to step in to over-rule or take over negotiations with mining companies. This means that any mining company not willing to pay royalties at the requested rates to First Nations can simply appeal to the provincial and Canadian governments. This undermines the point and purpose of a treaty with a sovereign First Nation.

This over-riding of self-determination in the structure and scope of the treaty is, in part, a cause of the lowered self-esteem that leads to the welfare mentality, addiction and dependency problems mentioned in the article. The treaty denies the Nisga’a the access to the resources necessary for an independent economic existence.

Whilst a lot of money was paid to Nisga’a people, money cannot put the salmon back into the sea.

Peter Woof

Port Hardy