VICTORIA, BC: Lake Babine Nation, Canada and the Province of British Columbia have signed a landmark new reconciliation agreement that sets the foundation for a 20-year journey to implement and recognize Lake Babine Nation rights and title, leading to greater prosperity, partnership and economic development that benefits everyone in the region for generations to come.
“For the first time in our history, Lake Babine Nation and the governments of B.C. and Canada are walking together. The Foundation Agreement provides real immediate benefits today for our Nation and its members. It also outlines how we will work together to fully enact Aboriginal rights and title. I’m thankful to the Chiefs before me who have gotten us here. Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, present and future generations of Lake Babine Nation members will reach new heights that the Foundation Agreement enables,” said Chief Gordon Alec of Lake Babine Nation.
Chief Alec, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, joined together by videoconference to sign the Lake Babine Nation Foundation Agreement and celebrate the beginning of the journey it represents.
“The Foundation Agreement with Lake Babine Nation is ambitious, comprehensive and puts us all on a path to reconciliation and a better future,” said Premier John Horgan. “Guided by the principles in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, it is an exciting example of the new and innovative agreements B.C. is creating in collaboration with First Nations and the federal government. Together, we’re finding solutions that are more flexible and better address the vision First Nations have for their own futures.”
The agreement provides immediate land and financial benefits totalling approximately $200 million, while setting the stage to negotiate further agreements, such as self-government and Aboriginal title. It provides a roadmap for how Lake Babine Nation and the provincial and federal governments will work together to implement Lake Babine self-governance, boost economic development, collaborate on major land and resource decisions and promote community health and well-being. It sets out a series of commitments, with both early actions and areas for longer-term work, that build on each other in stages.
The Foundation Agreement provides a comprehensive and transformative 20-year vision and framework. It is the beginning of the path forward to implement Lake Babine Nation’s vision of self-determination: a prosperous, self-sufficient, healthy, unified and self-governing Nation. This, in turn, will help develop strong, long-lasting relationships between Lake Babine Nation, the Crown, local government and industry.
“This agreement advances reconciliation, renews our relationship and breaks down colonial structures. Our work to renew and transform our relationship with Lake Babine Nation based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership helps to build a fairer Canada,” Bennett said. “This agreement charts the path forward to implement Lake Babine Nation’s vision of self-determination and promote social and community well-being, regional economic growth and implementation of rights and title. At this time, when the pandemic has magnified systemic issues and long-standing inequities, today’s signing is a welcome example of acknowledging the progress that can be made in closing those gaps by furthering self-determination.“
Canada and the Province of B.C. support Lake Babine Nation’s vision of a new self-governance model founded on the Nation’s Indigenous laws, customs and practices that empowers Lake Babine Nation to meet their current political, social and economic needs and aspirations. Resources to support the development of such systems are part of the agreement. It also provides a collaborative path to implement Lake Babine Nation Aboriginal title through constructive dialogue.
“We are breaking new ground with this agreement, moving beyond the denial of Indigenous rights into a new government-to-government relationship that fosters transformative change in our relationship with Lake Babine Nation, makes a real difference on the ground for Lake Babine members and brings stability and prosperity to everyone in the region,” Fraser said. “Our focus is to build on the positive relationships Lake Babine Nation has developed with neighbouring communities and the business and natural resource sectors, so we can all work together in a sustainable way to grow the regional economy and create jobs.”
Forestry is an economic pillar in the northern central interior of B.C. The agreement will increase Lake Babine Nation’s participation in the sector and provide an economic boost for the entire region. Funding will also help support and strengthen social program delivery in areas such as children and family services, education and language, and justice programs. This reconciliation agreement advances self-determination and self-government by working toward Lake Babine Nation assuming direct control and responsibility for service delivery jurisdiction.
“The agreement will enhance Lake Babine Nation’s participation in the forest sector so that they can directly benefit from forest resources in the area, and it will also provide an economic boost for the entire region.,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
The Foundation Agreement offers an innovative new model for future agreements across B.C. and a concrete example of how the Province and Canada are working with Nations to put the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into practice.
Written and released by BC Government. No edits.