The North American Experience

By The International Labour Organization
A brief history: Canada Cont.

Meanwhile, Federal and Provincial officials have been negotiating arrangements for the conservation and development of natural resources with individual indigenous communities. In a 1991 survey, Peggy Smith found 36 management agreements between indigenous communities and some combination of government and corporate partners. The greatest number were concerned with fish and wildlife (23), the rest with forestry (7) or mining (6). Corporations were involved in 10 of these agreements, either alone, or along with a Federal or Provincial government agency. Smith concluded that most of the agreements gave indigenous peoples no more than an advisory role. However, three of the agreements provided for joint decision making by the community subject to approval by the responsible Federal or Provincial minister, and one established a management body in which indigenous people hold a majority of seats.

The Federal government has repeatedly expressed its willingness to discuss special arrangements for local self-government with individual communities. The first self-government agreement in Southern Canada, negotiated with the Sechelt community in British Columbia in 1986, was hailed as a model for Federal officials but rejected by most indigenous communities as involving too little autonomy. As an “experiment”, the Federal government signed an agreement in 1994 with indigenous leaders in the Province of Manitoba, promising to negotiate a gradual transfer of the administration of all its social services programs to indigenous authorities. A general policy of negotiating the transfer of Federal responsibility to indigenous communities nationwide was announced in August 1995.

While these political negotiations go forward, Canadians officials are also engaged in negotiations over some 300 land claims in southern Canada, involving lands which were to have been set aside for the use of indigenous peoples under treaties or legislation, but were lost due to survey errors or encroachments. Most of these claims involve small parcels of land which were once part of Indian Reserves. By contrast, most of the Province of British Columbia is under claim, and a special British Columbia Treaty Commission has been established to negotiate a comprehensive territorial and political settlement with the indigenous nations concerned. These negotiations began in 1994, and it will be a number of years before any agreement are likely to be completed.

End of A Brief History: Canada. Next is Regional Arrangements.

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