The Pacheedaht, the Ditidaht First Nations, and the governments of Canada and British Columbia have taken a significant step to move forward together with reconciliation, to begin to address the wrongs of the past and build a new relationship based on recognition of rights, co-operation, respect and partnership.
On June 28, 2019, the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations signed an Agreement in Principle (AIP) for a treaty with the Government of Canada and the Government of British Columbia. (See below for the highlights in the Backgrounder.)
Chief Jeff Jones of the Pacheedaht First Nation; Chief Robert Joseph of the Ditidaht First Nation; B.C. Premier John Horgan; John Aldag, MP for Cloverdale-Langley City, on behalf of Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations; and Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, joined Ditidaht and Pacheedaht community members to celebrate the signing.
“Our Nation has been at the negotiation table for many years,” observed Chief Jeff Jones of the Pacheedaht First Nation. “The AIP signing is an important milestone for us and with our community’s agreement, we look forward to moving into the Final Agreement stage of negotiations. In order to get us over the finish line, we expect parties to continue to be flexible and creative and to think outside the box. We are very proud to be at this point for our Nation and it is only the beginning as we continue to move in the direction of self-governance. We believe this milestone will provide Pacheedaht members with a better and brighter future, independent of the limitations of the Indian Act. Pacheedaht have sat tirelessly negotiating for what they think is right in terms of treaty for our Nation and we will continue to do so. Pacheedaht envision great opportunities for our people with this signing and we strive for the best for our next generations.”
The joint AIP lays out the elements that will be included in separate treaty agreements with each of the two First Nations. These elements include ownership and co-operative management of land and resources, self-government and jurisdiction over a range of subject matters, harvesting rights, cultural and heritage protection, economic development opportunities and capital transfer.
Subject to further negotiations, treaty settlements with Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations will include lands from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the West Coast Trail and Nitinaht Lake area and adjacent to the Pacheedaht community. The treaties will also support arrangements to preserve and enhance the West Coast Trail hiking experience and facilitate co-operative management within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
“It is good to finally reach this watershed moment in our treaty negotiations,” said Chief Robert Joseph of the Ditidaht First Nation. “It took us a long time to get here; but we are signing our AIP today at least in part due to Ditidaht’s creative approach to resolving seemingly intractable problems. Other Nations, in the face of such problems, have often drawn a line in the sand and let negotiations stall. Some of these solutions, including getting some of our homeland returned from Parks Canada and negotiating the framework for a new approach to natural resource management with Canada and B.C. off our Treaty Settlement Lands, are very innovative and may even have a positive effect on negotiations elsewhere in B.C. These are important examples of our willingness to think through problems. These hard-won solutions should serve to increase our chances to successfully ratify the treaty, instead of being mired in a perpetual polarizing debate disguised as negotiation.”
Treaties are a foundation for a renewed relationship and a comprehensive way to recognize rights, advance self-determination and create an enduring nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous nations and government.
- The Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations are Nuu-chah-nulth Tribes located on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island.
- The traditional territory of the Ditidaht First Nation stretches inland from Cowichan Lake, down through Nitinaht Lake, and to the coast between Bonilla Point and Pachena Point. The territory reaches out to sea to the salmon, halibut and cod banks and includes the headwaters of streams and rivers that drain to the coastline.
- The traditional territory of the Pacheedaht First Nation includes the lands and waters along the southwest coast of Vancouver Island between Bonilla Point and Sheringham Point.
- Ditidaht First Nation Agreement in Principle
- Ditidaht First Nation website
- Pacheedaht First Nation Agreement in Principle
- Pacheedaht First Nation website
Backgrounder: Ditidaht and Pacheedaht Agreement in Principle
An Agreement in Principle creates the basis for concluding a future treaty.
It includes proposals for treaty settlement lands, resource management, regulatory processes and fiscal relationships, as well as other details that would guide the new government-to-government relationship between Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations, B.C. and Canada once treaties are signed.
The Agreement in Principle proposes capital transfers of $19.72 million to Pacheedaht and $39.9 million to Ditidaht to be paid on the day each treaty takes effect.
In addition to the transfer proposed in the Agreement in Principle, B.C. has proposed an economic development fund of $1.8 million to Pacheedaht and $3 million to Ditidaht. B.C. would provide this funding in three annual instalments once the treaties take effect.
The proposed treaty settlement land packages for the Ditidaht and Pacheedaht First Nations includes existing First Nations reserve land, and the transfer of certain parcels of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and provincial Crown land.
Pacheedaht proposed treaty settlement lands include approximately 1,896.9 hectares:
- 175.9 hectares of existing Pacheedaht reserve land
- 128 hectares of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve lands
- 1,593 hectares of provincial Crown land
Ditidaht proposed treaty settlement lands include approximately 6,160.32 hectares:
- 751.32 hectares of existing Ditidaht reserve land
- 1,453 hectares of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve lands
- 3,956 hectares of provincial Crown land.
In recognition of the need to ensure safe, year-round vehicle access to the Ditidaht community, the Ditidaht AIP includes a provincial commitment to establishing a 54-kilometre gravel forest service road extending from Cowichan Lake to the north eastern end of Nitinaht Lake.
A number of supplementary agreements outlined in the Agreement in Principle will also be negotiated during the final stage of negotiations. These include:
- An engagement agreement that will establish a collaborative process to monitor and evaluate provincial authorizations for the use of Crown lands that may impact the ability of Ditidaht or Pacheedaht to exercise their treaty rights within their territories.
- A co-operative management agreement for the portion of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve located in Ditidaht and Pacheedaht’s traditional territories.
- A framework agreement to support Ditidaht and Pacheedaht’s involvement in federal environmental assessment processes.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and the West Coast Trail
Under the Agreement in Principle, and subject to further negotiations, treaty settlements with the First Nations will include the return of some lands from the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve in the West Coast Trail and Nitinaht Lake area and adjacent to the Pacheedaht community. Under the Canada National Parks Act, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is designated as a national park reserve in recognition of unresolved Aboriginal rights and title claims. Claims settlements can involve transferring lands and adjusting boundaries of a national park reserve.
Parks Canada and the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations have agreed to preserve the West Coast Trail hiking experience through co-operative arrangements, including a right of way for portions of the West Coast Trail that cross treaty settlement lands.
In 1973, Parks Canada moved to add the West Coast Trail to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve despite objections from the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht First Nations whose use of the land and access to the ocean was restricted as a result.
Many of Parks Canada’s places have seen a transition over time from a past where Indigenous peoples were separated from their traditional lands and waters. Today, Parks Canada is committed to ensuring Indigenous connections are honoured and Indigenous rights are respected. The return of some lands within the West Coast Trail Unit of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is an important step in forging a new relationship between Parks Canada and the Nations.
Juan de Fuca Trail
In 2015 and 2017, the Province purchased private lands adjacent to Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. The purchase was an opportunity to obtain lands for transfer to Pacheedaht, as well as to add some small pieces of land into the provincial park to ensure the entire Juan de Fuca trail is protected.
The Agreement in Principle formalizes the intention of the Province to transfer lands adjacent to the park to Pacheedaht on the day a treaty would take effect.