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Harcourt Speaks Out about Slow Pace of Treaty-Making

Former premier and former treaty commissioner Mike Harcourt has spoken out about the slow pace of treaty negotiations in BC. Vancouver Sun columnist Vaughn Palmer picks up the story (alternate link). Beyond overwhelming bureaucracy, Harcourt:

… also sees unreasonable expectations, willful blindness, deliberate misreading of the courts and a lack of decisive leadership, particularly on the native side.

We’ve heard this before. But, as contemporary BC history — court decisions like Calder, Sparrow, Delgamuukw, and William, the Nisga’a Treaty, and the Treaty Process itself — are central in lectures in my BC First Nations class this week and next, it’s useful to hear Harcourt’s reflections.

Moreover, we have been treated to several superb public lectures at Douglas College in the past month on the topic of Reconciliation. Several of the speakers — including Tony Penikett and Stewart Phillip — expressed general dismay with treaty making. The process needs reworking, said Penikett. Penikett details his approach to revamping the treaty process in his book Reconciliation. Phillip spoke about the need to find alternatives to treaties which do not extinguish aboriginal title. These and other speakers noted that treaties are not likely to end the suffering and poverty of urban aboriginals.

I continue to wonder what treaty making in BC will look like in five and ten years. Has the William decision made treaties unnecessary? Will revenue sharing agreements or interim measures form the basis for government-to-government agreements in the future? Will the pace of treaty negotiations, and the acceptance of treaty-making as a viable process for reconciliation inside and outside of native communities, pick up?

What do you think?

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