EDITORIAL: Five years was too long for historic Maa-nulth signing

The signing is a government-to-government agreement to work collaboratively…

Chiefs from the Maa-nulth First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island signed an historic agreement with the B.C. government on Friday that will set the tone on how they and other post-treaty nations are treated at the provincial table.

The signing is a government-to-government agreement to work collaboratively on land, resource management and treaty implementation.

Maa-nulth leaders are viewing this agreement as a step forward—as Uchucklesaht Tribe Chief Councillor Charlie Cootes said, “We look forward to strengthening our relationship with British Columbia through shared recognition and application of mutual respect in our dealings.”

The atmosphere of cooperation is commendable, but we have to ask: why did it take seven years to come to this agreement?

Chief Robert Dennis Sr. from the Huu-ay-aht First Nations said the difference for him with this agreement is now he will be able to speak with a provincial government minister, rather than a junior minister. It’s surprising that once the Maa-nulth Treaty was signed, this level of respect didn’t immediately happen. Maa-nulth First Nations contribute economically and culturally to life on the west coast, as much or more than other municipalities.

We understand, as Scott Fraser has said, that the framework for partnerships between post-treaty nations, provincial and federal governments has not existed beyond treaty language. Fraser said treaty language “was silent” on post-treaty relations, but that is no longer the case.

We hope, now that this ground-breaking agreement has been signed, that silence is broken. In this time of reconciliation and new relationships being forged outside of the antiquated Indian Act, it’s time to move forward with respect and hope.

— Alberni Valley News

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