I am accompanied here today by my colleagues. Jim Barkwell is associate director general for negotiations in western Canada and is based in B.C. Perry Billingsley, from Gatineau, is the director general of policy development and coordination here in Ottawa. Stephen Gagnon is director general of implementation.
I'll try to go as quickly as I can through my notes. You do have copies, so if I'm going too quickly, I'm sure you'll be able to catch up.
I'd like to thank the committee for this opportunity to speak about our work, particularly as it relates to treaties and treaty negotiations. Treaties are an important part of the department's mandate. A great deal of work has been done and continues to be done in our efforts to conclude and implement treaties across the country.
As we will discuss, treaty-making is difficult and complex but very gratifying work. We are committed to producing positive and beneficial results for all Canadians as a result of our treaty work.
Aboriginal people in Canada claim rights to lands and resources and to be self-governing. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes existing aboriginal and treaty rights but does not define those rights. The uncertainty that accompanies unresolved claims to aboriginal rights and title often presents challenges to economic development opportunities. Tapping into these opportunities benefits both aboriginal people and the broader Canadian community.
Fundamentally, there are three ways for the Crown to deal with unresolved aboriginal rights claims.
First, we have treaties, which provide a permanent and comprehensive resolution of aboriginal claims by negotiating constitutionally protected agreements. Canada's preference is to negotiate resolution to unresolved aboriginal rights claims.
Second, litigation, where the scope and substance of aboriginal rights are determined by the courts.
Third, other agreements, such as contractual-type arrangements which do not provide for a final resolution of all claims.
My sector is responsible for addressing comprehensive, specific and special claims, including assessment and negotiation of those claims, managing the implementation of negotiated agreements, and managing historic treaty matters and commissions.
For today, we focus primarily on the Comprehensive Claims Policy, the work of the British Columbia Treaty Commission and Canada's policy for the implementation of self-government.
From the federal perspective, the key objectives of the comprehensive claims policy are twofold: achieving certainty of rights for all parties and finality of claims respecting lands and resources through a one-time settlement.
Comprehensive land claims agreements are negotiated in areas of the country where aboriginal rights and title have not been addressed by treaties or other legal means. These agreements are modern-day treaties among aboriginal claimant groups, Canada, and the relevant province or territory. While each one is unique, these agreements usually include such things as land ownership, money, wildlife harvesting rights, participation in land, resource, water, wildlife, and environmental management, and measures to promote economic development and protect aboriginal culture.
Through the policy, the negotiating parties seek settlement of aboriginal claims to lands and resources. The final agreements are constitutionally protected land claims. In exchange for the release of an aboriginal group's claims, the crown may transfer title to land provide a financial component, and establish arrangements for the use, benefit, and co-management of lands and resources. Settling claims is one step toward establishing a new, productive government-to-government relationship with aboriginal groups.
At present, the majority of comprehensive claims negotiations are in British Columbia. The British Columbia treaty process is a made-in-B.C. approach to negotiations. In 1992, an agreement was struck between Canada, the province, and the B.C. First Nations Summit to establish the British Columbia Treaty Commission. All First Nations in B.C. may participate in treaty negotiations once their statements of intent to participate are accepted by the commission.
As of September 2011, there are three treaties in effect in British Columbia: the Nisga'a Final Agreement (2000), the Tsawwassen Final Agreement (2009) and the Mah-nulth Final Agreement (2011).
There are 57 additional claimant groups (representing 108 of the 197 eligible First Nations in B.C., or approximately 75,000 of an estimated 120,000 members) who have submitted statements of intent to the BCTC indicating their intent to negotiate a treaty. The 57 claimant groups have organized themselves into 47 negotiation tables. Seven of the 57 are still in the early stages of negotiations, 43 are at the agreement-in-principle negotiation stage and five are at the final negotiation stage.
In addition, McLeod Lake First Nation, a recent adherent to Treaty 8, has submitted a statement of intent to negotiate a stand-alone self-government agreement within the B.C. treaty process.
To date, 23 comprehensive land claim agreements and two self-government agreements have been ratified and brought into effect since the inception of these policies and processes. These agreements cover approximately 40% of Canada's land mass and impact 96 aboriginal communities and more than 100,000 first nation and Inuit members.
Canada has recognized that the right to self-government is an aboriginal right within the meaning of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada's approach to self-government sets aside attempts to define these rights in favour of negotiating practical arrangements for aboriginal communities to exercise self-government.
Self-government agreements can form part of a land claim agreement or they can be stand-alone agreements. As stand-alone agreements, they can be either constitutionally or non-constitutionally protected and either be comprehensive—in other words, involving core governance and other jurisdictions—or cover only sectoral jurisdictions. An example is education.
For self-government agreements to be workable, they need to address a number of practical issues of public administration, the kind that are faced by all governments in Canada. These include the structure of the new government and its relationship with other governments, new fiscal arrangements, the relationship of laws between jurisdictions, program and service delivery, and implementation planning, to name a few.
I'm sure you can appreciate that while these are practical matters, negotiating them could be quite complex and time consuming. A key part of Canada's approach is that these arrangements be appropriate for the group in question, but in a 21st century context.
Emerging evidence suggests that aboriginal groups with self-government agreements enjoy improved outcomes compared to those remaining under the Indian Act.
In 2003, and again in 2011, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development completed an impact assessment of aboriginal self-government or community well-being. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, the assessment suggests that, as a group, self-governing First Nations have better education, employment and labour force outcomes in comparison to all registered Indians on reserve.
Further, the analysis shows that, not only have self-governing aboriginal communities focused on establishing the foundations of governance, they have a renewed sense of pride in their governments and have established new relationships to foster socio-economic growth and progress in their communities.
From this we can see that, although these negotiations are often challenging and lengthy, the outcomes certainly meet Canada's objectives of strong, healthy communities.
Currently, there are 18 self-government agreements in Canada involving 32 aboriginal communities. There is one education sectoral agreement involving 11 first nations: the Mi'kmaq Education Act. Sixteen of these self-government agreements are integrated within a land claim agreement involving 30 communities.
I know I'm throwing a lot of numbers at you, but they're on the map that we've provided for ease of understanding.
Two agreements are stand-alone self-government agreements involving two communities. In addition, there are 91 self-government negotiation tables, of which 67 are involved in comprehensive land claims and 24 are in stand-alone self-government negotiations.
Canada is also participating in four sectoral self-government negotiations: with the Blood Tribe on governance and child and family services; with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation--NAN--and the Union of Ontario Indians on governance and education; and with the First Nations Education Steering Committee in B.C. on education jurisdiction for 13 communities.
The Government of Canada remains committed to existing negotiating processes. We continue to build on our successes and learn from our experiences to improve our performance. While the complexity of the issues often leads to extensive negotiation time and expense, we continue to look for ways to improve these processes and to expedite the conclusion of agreements, both to further the process of reconciliation with aboriginal people and to achieve beneficial results for all Canadians.
I thank you very much for this time to present our work. I welcome the opportunity to respond to any questions you may have.
Thank you. I welcome your questions.