British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, centre, signs an agreement with chiefs from the five Maa-nulth First Nations: from left, Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. (Huu-ay-aht First Nations), Legislative Chief Peter Hanson (Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k’tles7et’h’), Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes (Uchucklesaht), ha’wilth Anne Mack (Toquaht Nation) and President Les Doiron (Yuulu?il?ath). SUBMITTED PHOTO

British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser, centre, signs an agreement with chiefs from the five Maa-nulth First Nations: from left, Chief Councillor Robert Dennis Sr. (Huu-ay-aht First Nations), Legislative Chief Peter Hanson (Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/ Che:k’tles7et’h’), Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes (Uchucklesaht), ha’wilth Anne Mack (Toquaht Nation) and President Les Doiron (Yuulu?il?ath). SUBMITTED PHOTO

Maa-nulth Nations sign historic agreement with B.C.

Deal puts nations on level playing field with province in post-treaty talks

The Province of British Columbia and the five Maa-nulth First Nations signed a government-to-government agreement on Friday (Jan. 12) that is the first of its kind in B.C. The agreement sets up a framework for both sides to work together that was absent in post-treaty language.

“It’s a new type of relationship,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “It’s a commitment by government and the Maa-nulth nations to work together on a government-to-government basis now that the Maa-nulth nations have achieved treaty.”

Fraser said this agreement “is another mechanism, another way for us to work together” that did not exist when the language of the historic Maa-nulth Treaty was created. “There was no anticipation of that when the treaty process was being developed,” he explained.

“It was anticipated when treaties were signed, that was the end. There was no contemplation about what would happen now.

“These nations are their own nations now, their own governments now and we need to work in partnership with them.”

Robert Dennis Sr., Chief Councillor for the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, said this agreement formalizes relations with the provincial government.

“It will enable us to have more meaningful discussion with government, on a government-to-government basis,” he said following the signing. “Instead of meeting with a junior bureaucrat, I’m now meeting with a minister.”

Charlie Cootes, chief councillor for the Uchucklesaht First Nation, said the deal solidifies the Maa-nulth nations’ relationship with regard to doing business with higher levels of government.

“It’s the first step in building a relationship that will steer us away from dispute resolution and implementation issues,” he said.