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quick fact
Substantive treaty negotiations begin at the agreement-in-principle stage. Often described as the blueprint for a final treaty, the agreement in principle identifies and defines a range of rights and obligations including: existing and future interests in land sea and resources; structures and authorities of government; relationship of laws; fiscal relations and so on. Following initialling, First Nations take the agreement back to their communities for consultation after which, if ratified, the provincial and federal governments present the agreement to their respective cabinets for approval.


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Six-Stage Treaty Process

The six-stage treaty process is set out in the BC Claims Task Force Report of 1991 and incorporated in the tripartite British Columbia Treaty Commission Agreement of 1992. The process is voluntary and open to all First Nations in British Columbia.

Stage 1 - Statement of Intent to Negotiate

A First Nation files with the Treaty Commission a statement of intent (SOI) to negotiate a treaty with Canada and BC. The SOI must identify the First Nation's governing body for treaty purposes and the people that body represents and show that the governing body has a mandate from those people to enter the process. The SOI must describe the geographic area of the First Nation's distinct traditional territory and identify any overlaps with other First Nations.

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Stage 2 - Readiness To Negotiate

The Treaty Commission must convene an initial meeting of the three parties within 45 days of accepting a statement of intent. For most First Nations, this will be the first occasion on which they sit down at a treaty table with representatives of Canada and BC. This meeting allows the Treaty Commission and the parties to exchange information, consider the criteria for determining the parties' readiness to negotiate and generally identify issues of concern. The meeting usually takes place in the traditional territory of the First Nation. The three parties must demonstrate that they have a commitment to negotiate, a qualified negotiator, sufficient resources, a mandate and a process to develop that mandate and ratification procedures. The First Nation must have begun addressing any overlaps. The governments of Canada and BC must have a formal means of consulting with third parties, including local governments and interest groups. When the three parties have everything in place, the Treaty Commission will declare the table ready to begin negotiating a framework agreement.

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Stage 3 - Negotiation Of a Framework Agreement

The framework agreement is, in effect, the "table of contents" of a
comprehensive treaty. The three parties agree on the subjects to be
negotiated and an estimated time frame for stage four
agreement-in-principle negotiations. Canada and BC engage in public
consultation at the regional and local levels. A municipal representative
sits on the provincial negotiation team at each treaty table.

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Stage 4 - Negotiation Of An Agreement In Principle

This is where substantive treaty negotiations begin. The three parties examine in detail the elements outlined in their framework agreement. The goal is to reach agreement on each of the topics that will form the basis of the treaty. These agreements will identify and define a range of rights and obligations, including: existing and future interests in land, sea and resources; structures and authorities of government; relationship of laws; regulatory processes; amending processes; dispute resolution; financial component; fiscal relations and so on. The agreement in principle also lays the groundwork for implementation of the treaty.

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Stage 5 - Negotiation to Finalize a Treaty

The treaty formalizes the new relationship among the parties and embodies the agreements reached in the agreement in principle. Technical and legal issues are resolved at this stage. A treaty is a unique constitutional instrument to be signed and formally ratified at the conclusion of Stage 5.

Stage 6 - Implementation of the Treaty

Long-term implementation plans need to be tailored to specific agreements. The plans to implement the treaty are put into effect or phased in as agreed. With time, all aspects of the treaty will be realized and with continuing goodwill, commitment and effort by all parties, the new relationship will come to maturity.


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