The Treaty Commission is an independent body that advocates for and facilitates the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights and title, including the implementation of the UN Declaration, through the negotiation of modern treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements. Its three main roles are to be the independent facilitator of negotiations amongst First Nations in BC, the Government of Canada, and the Government of British Columbia; allocate negotiation support funding to enable First Nation participation in the negotiations; and provide public information and education about treaty negotiations.
The Treaty Commission is the only tripartite statutory body in the country whose mandate is to support reconciliation. The BCTC Agreement and associated legislation states that the primary role of the Treaty Commission is to assist the Parties and the Principals as an independent facilitator of the negotiations.
As an independent facilitator, the BCTC assists in advancing reconciliation through the made-in-BC treaty negotiations process by ensuring the work of the Parties is effective and is making progress. To do this, the Treaty Commission:
- assists the Parties in developing solutions and in resolving disputes
- observes and reports on negotiations progress and encourages timely negotiations
- chairs key meetings at negotiating tables
- reports publicly on key opportunities and obstacles
- works with the Principals on improving the treaty negotiations process
- monitors and reports on progress and encourages timely negotiations
In 2018 this mandate was expanded to include supporting negotiating Parties in implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (TRC Calls to Action), the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, and the recognition of First Nations title and rights.
Commissioners and staff are involved in an increasing variety of facilitation initiatives.
This increased demand has arisen from a number of circumstances, including: intensified treaty negotiations at Stage 5 and Stage 4 tables, completion of ﬁnal agreement negotiations and the ratification requirements for First Nations, stalled treaty negotiations, intensified inter-First Nation dialogue on overlapping and shared territories and complex consultations between the Crown and First Nations affected by overlaps, as well as intensified internal First Nations dialogue, especially in multi-community First Nations with respect to issues of shared territory, governance, and capacity.
In recent years, the Treaty Commission has begun to take on special initiatives to support treaty negotiations and provide First Nations with more tools. These have included:
- hosting forums that create a venue for sharing knowledge, experiences, and best practices, especially between First Nations currently negotiating and First Nations that are implementing modern treaties
- publishing resources, such as the Ratification Guide, created to assist First Nations with community approval and ratification votes, and the Human Resource Capacity Tool Kit, to support First Nations in preparing for self-government
The Treaty Commission is the independent funding authority for negotiations in BC, in the treaty negotiations framework as recommended in the Task Force Report and set out in the BCTC Agreement and associated legislation.
The role of the BCTC is to “ensure that the process is fair and impartial, that all parties have sufficient resources to do the job, and that the parties work effectively to reach agreements” [Task Force Report, p. 35]. The allocation of negotiation support funding to First Nations assists with this principle.
Negotiation support funding is allocated to First Nations to negotiate with Canada and BC. The funding is provided by Canada and BC and the Treaty Commission allocates this funding to First Nations.
Treaty negotiation support funding allocated by the Treaty Commission is now 100 percent contribution funding. In 2018, the federal government announced that going forward it would replace negotiation support loans with non-repayable contribution funding for First Nations participating in modern treaty negotiations. Canada provides over 90% of the contribution funding and BC provides the remainder.
Existing treaty loans will be eliminated. The government of Canada’s federal Budget 2019: Investing in the Middle Class to Grow Canada’s Economy indicated that outstanding treaty negotiation loans for First Nations across the country would be eliminated. Canada will confirm the timing for the elimination of existing treaty loans.
Read the Treaty Commission’s latest annual report for the most recent information about the total funding allocated to First Nations in the BC treaty negotiations process, and BCTC’s operating budget.
Public Education and Information
The Treaty Commission’s third role is to provide the public with information on treaty negotiations in BC, and to educate the public on its role in supporting and understanding treaty making.
The governments of Canada and BC also share the responsibility of providing public information on negotiations, and the three Parties to each set of negotiations are required to provide speciﬁc information on the progress of their treaty tables.
To fulfill this mandate, the Treaty Commission:
- reports on the status of treaty negotiations throughout the year in its newsletter, Update, and consolidates this information in its annual report
- organizes Forums bringing First Nations together to learn from each another
- writes publications to share best practices
- with First Nations and the public, such as the Ratification Guide and the Human Resources Capacity Tool Kit
- communicates with the public on treaty negotiations at conferences, tradeshows, special events, community forums, meetings, and schools
- meets with federal and provincial departments to advocate for the importance of treaty negotiations in fulfilling Canada and BC’s constitutional obligations
- maintains a website with current and historical information on treaty negotiations and all publications, including annual reports, news releases, newsletters, forum materials, videos, and teaching materials
- engages with the public using social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and most recently Twitter