The First Nations Leadership Council is preparing a concept paper or series of papers detailing the land title recognition options for indigenous peoples in British Columbia, Public Eye has exclusively learned. In an interview, First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John said those document are meant to provide a basis for discussion at an upcoming forum for aboriginal leaders scheduled to take place over four days during the last week of August.
"How do, in effect, we enforce recognition when the courts have already said that aboriginal title has never been extinguished? Do we do it through legislation? Do we do it through agreement? Do we do it through a constitutional amendment? Do we do it through treaties? What are the tools that are in front of us? That's the idea of this concept paper," explained the grand chief. "What is the most effective tool or sets of tools that can help us achieve - from the First Nations perspective of the tribal councils - our respective goals that we have?"
Grand Chief John also rejected a suggestion, advanced in an email by Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief David Luggi, that the First Nations Leadership Council doesn't have a mandate to prepare those papers - which be informed by recent regional sessions on the government's proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act.
"We have resolutions upon resolutions that say we need to have a considered discussion. Do you walk into the hall with an empty hand or do you go in there prepared with your best material for people to consider? And that's the idea - a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. You can always stand back and say no and continue to do that. It's harder to do the work and provide considered views and considered opinions around all the really big legal and political issues around our communities."
The following is a complete copy of Mr. Luggi's aforementioned email.
Date: Mon, 6 Jul 2009 08:01:52 -0700
Subject: Proposed R&R Act
A lawyers meeting regarding the R&R Act proposal was recently held. Ed John advised that the "Discussion Paper" is the point of entry for dialogue on the proposed recognition legislation, however, the FNLC now want the lawyers acting for First Nations to collaborate on a "Concepts Report", which will form the basis of a mandate to engage government.
The Concepts Paper would examine the issues, opportunities, risks, options, and address concerns about how aboriginal title can be recognized by the province. The paper would also address the question, "Should we have legislation at all?" The paper would be tabled at the All Chiefs Forum. The lawyers committed to preparing a scoping document to flag all of the issues, which would serve the basis of a lawyer's plenary session, tentatively scheduled for July 13 and 14. With limited time to participate this summer due to holidays, fishing and other work commitments it seems unrealistic for them to prepare a paper in the summer.
There are some political matters that arise from this change in direction:
* what is the FNLC's mandate to proceed with developing a "Concepts Report"?
* will the FNLC be returning to those communities that had Forums based upon the Discussion Paper to explain the new direction?
* where is the accountability for this process given that there is widespread documented opposition to this initiative?
It is time for more First Nation traditional and elected leaders to demand an independent review be undertaken of the R & R Act initiative process and that the process be stopped as the FNLC has no authority to negotiate arrangements that may have the affect of infringing / extinguishing aboriginal rights and title
Carrier Sekani Tribal Chief