PRINCE GEORGE TREATY ADVISORY COMMITTEE
adopted March 4, 1998
This report contains the Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee (PGTAC) statement of interest in treaty negotiations.
The interests expressed have been developed and expressed over a series of workshops and meetings with the PGTAC since 1995. They enhance and supplement the existing interests articulated for local governments by the UBCM.
This report begins with a description of the PGTAC and its mandate. It follows with a summary of interest-based negotiations and the reasons these type of negotiations are preferable in treaty negotiations.
There are two types of interests mentioned by the PGTAC. Briefly these are general interests and specific interests. The general interests are similar to those articulated by the UBCM in their report, Local Government And Aboriginal Treaty Negotiations, Defining the Municipal Interest: A Policy Paper of the Union of B.C. Municipalities, Sept. 1994. The specific interests are also similar to those of the UBCM however the PGTAC has been able to localize and apply these interests to specific subject areas. Summaries of the PGTACs interests in Environmental Management, Land Management and Water Management are included.
This report is very much a work in progress for local governments. New information, sharper focusing of interests and the progress of negotiations will be addressed in future drafts.
Table of Contents
The PGTAC first met on April 26, 1995. It was formed as a result of the Memorandum of Understanding signed on March 22, 1993 between the Province of British Columbia and the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the protocol signed by both parties on September 19, 1994.
The PGTACs purpose is to ensure the interests of local governments within the geographical area of the PGTAC and/or the sphere of social economic influence related to the Governments are identified and taken into account by the Province in the treaty negotiations process.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee may consist of one member and one alternate member each to be appointed by the following local governments:
Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako Regional District of Fraser-Fort George
Village of Burns Lake Village of Fraser Lake
Village of McBride Village of Valemount
District of Fort St. James District of Houston
District of Mackenzie District of Vanderhoof
City of Prince George
Treaty Negotiations with which the PGTAC is involved include:
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council; Cheslatta First Nation;
Treaty Negotiations with which members of the PGTAC are involved with or with which the PGTAC provides financial support to other TACs:
Kaska Dene Council.
Most of these negotiations are at Stage 4 of the six-stage B.C. Treaty Process. The exception is the Cheslatta who are negotiating Stage 2 issues. In recent months both Canada and B.C. have augmented their capacity and harmonized their resources with the Lheidli Tenneh Band.
The purpose of this document is to set out in broad and general terms what municipal or local government interests are in regards to the treaty process in the Prince George TAC region. This document is informed by statements of interests already provided to the Northern Interior Regional Advisory Committee by local municipalities. The main documents explaining interests are:
Treaty Negotiations through the B.C. Treaty Process are described as interest based.
In negotiations, we are usually quick to state the outcomes we seek. These ideal outcomes are our positions.
Negotiating in this way often requires compromises which neither side wants to make, particularly where important societal, environmental and economic values seem to be at stake.
Consequently interest-based negotiations are being pursued instead of negotiating by positions. In these talks, it is possible for the parties to move directly from issue identification to exploration of interests, avoiding and de-emphasizing position-taking altogether.
The parties shift from being primarily concerned with pre-determined outcomes to being concerned about the fundamental objectives of all at the table. This type of negotiating is based on the notion that interests are a truer measure of the negotiators goals, and that discovering mutually satisfying outcomes and maintenance of positive relationships is better.
Interests are the goals and objectives which motivate and are fundamental to the positions we take. They may also be described as the interests that fuel the potential fires which ignite conflict.
Interests have been defined as:
A major tool in interest-based based negotiations is interest development. Interest development can be described in the following terms:
In treaty negotiations, interest development serves to create a treaty that is fair and takes into account sectoral and community interests.
The UBCM had identified nine ``General Interests and five ``Specific Interests for treaty negotiations. These interests were articulated locally at a meeting of TAC members in Prince George on April 29, 1996 and are contained in the report DEFINING LOCAL GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
The General Interests as outlined by the UBCM provide a comprehensive list of subjects and areas where local government interests could be impacted by treaty settlements. They have also informed the articulation of specific interests both from the UBCM and local governments. Although other TACs have provided their own general interests these differ minimally from those of the UBCM.
The current specific interests the UBCM lists for local government are:
Although Statements of Interest have been issued by the Union of B. C. Municipalities and several municipalities in the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George the Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee (PGTAC) is in the process of formulating its own.
The statement of interest is a component of treaty negotiations. Although this is the first statement of interest originating from the PGTAC it cannot be considered the last. This is a work in progress in a dynamic and changing process. Interests will change, develop and focus as negotiations proceed.
II. THE PRINCE GEORGE TREATY ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT OF INTEREST: GENERAL INTERESTS
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee want treaty settlements to be certain and final, meaning that the final outcome of treaty negotiations will be a completion of the process of addressing outstanding First Nations claims and that, in relation to the question of aboriginal right and title, the treaties will bring finality and certainty to the greatest extent possible, recognizing that ``self-government for aboriginals may be dynamic, evolving form of government as it is for local governments. This will enable all citizens of British Columbia to move toward economic, social and community stability.
Local Government has identified an interest in having a clearer definition of any rights which aboriginal people will have on Crown Land. First Nations will likely have interests on Crown Land which may or may not be treaty based. How these rights are defined may trigger the operation of treaty based rights of participation in environmental assessment. What treaty rights will attach to Crown Land is related to the delegation of environmental protection functions on Crown Land because those functions, even if outside treaty, may be premised on the protection of negotiated treaty rights. Any rights contained in treaty that pertain to use of crown land must be clearly defined to provide certainty for the public use of Crown Land.
The Prince George TAC has an interest in determining that whatever agreements are reached in treaty will bring substantial closure to disputes over the use of Crown Land. The ultimate goal is to achieve equity, equality and fairness for all people involved and affected by the process. If existing processes will be used as much as possible for environmental management then those areas which are not covered by existing processes must be clearly circumscribed in the treaty. Clear understanding will be established for the scope of agreements which may be reached outside treaty and that those agreements do not undermine the finality of the treaty.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee has an interest in settlements being affordable, meaning that they will not impose any extraordinary financial burden on the people of British Columbia. The value of the settlement package (in terms of land, resources and cash) is of great interest to local governments.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is vitally concerned for the future of their communities and want treaty settlements that will not derogate from the social and economic stability of those communities, particularly those which are currently resource-dependent.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is interested that treaty settlements will be within the framework of the Canadian Constitution and that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to all citizens and residents of this province, and that equity and fairness to all will be a fundamental premise in these negotiations.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is interested that general provincial and federal standards (e.g. environmental protection, land and resource planning, consumer protection, employment standards, workers compensation, health and safety, etc.) will apply on settlement lands within or adjacent to local government boundaries. The PGTAC is interested that there be compatibility and harmonization between the standards determined by First Nations and those of local governments (e.g., land-use, sub-division developments, etc.).
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is interested that those lands owned in fee simple not be ``on the table for negotiation (e.g., not subject to expropriation) and that all other forms of interest in land or resources will be adequately compensated for if they are part of a treaty settlement.
Many non-aboriginal communities within the PGTAC region are totally or significantly dependent upon resource industries, particularly the forest sector, for their existence. Some municipalities hold Tree Farm Licenses while others have developed plans for Community Forests. Control and use of the provinces natural resources is a significant interest and there is a concern that treaty settlements will threaten the survival or well-being of many resource dependent communities.
Water interests are also substantial and numerous. Many local governments hold water licenses to serve their communities. A lack of clarity on such issues as ownership of bodies of water under common law (e.g., to the midpoint of a body of water adjacent to reserve lands), historic rights to water use, water licenses, rights of access to shorelines, status of water lots, access and easements for servicing and enforcement of quality control standards are issues of concern to local government. Negotiations will strive to specifically address these interests.
Agricultural land is also of great importance to many local governments and communities. The process of identifying and dealing with agricultural and range leases and licenses needs to be dealt with in an equitable manner, meaning that no economic hardship results for the holders of those interests. The preservation of agricultural lands and the status of the Agricultural Land Reserve is also a matter of concern.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is interested that the public have opportunities to be well informed about the issues, the process and the expected outcomes and impacts of treaty negotiations. The process needs to be as transparent as possible. A process of public information and communication between local and aboriginal governments will be encouraged and supported during the negotiation process for the purpose of sharing information, skills and expertise and to develop positive working relationships between neighboring communities which will extend into the post-settlement period. The PGTAC will strive to establish post-settlement structures for communication and consultation (e.g., joint council meetings) early in the process.
The PGTAC has an interest that this process be implemented immediately, with the support of the provincial and federal governments, and significant input and direction from local communities and First Nations.
The PGTAC supports efforts by B.C. and Canada in the continued operation of the Treaty Outreach Office in Prince George and supports future funding for this and similar projects.
The Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee is concerned that treaty negotiations and settlements focus on mechanisms for dispute avoidance and that there be a formalized process for dispute resolution following the final settlement. The process will strive to focus particular attention to issues related to ``cross-border impacts and the impacts of treaty rights which apply outside of settlement lands. Issues are bound to arise, as they do now between local governments, and a process for resolving differences is a logical outcome of the treaty process. See also Planning, Dispute Resolution (page 11)
III. THE PRINCE GEORGE TREATY ADVISORY COMMITTEE STATEMENT OF INTEREST: specific interests
Treaties will ensure there is equity in cost-sharing for all individuals who live in a region and benefit from its shared services. Existing tax bases will be maintained to prevent deterioration of the present level of servicing.
Taxation and Downloading: The Prince George TAC have an interest that local government will not be required to increase tax burdens because they are required to deliver environmental programs for which there may be increased demands as a result of treaty settlements. See discussion under Equitable/Fair contribution for services.
Property Tax Exemptions: The Prince George TAC has an interest in phasing out any constitutional tax exemptions for First Nations. Under the current assessment system property tax exemptions can be constitutional exemptions, assessment exemptions or tax exemptions. If First Nations negotiate any of these exemptions, it will reduce the tax base of affected municipalities and regional districts thereby diminishing the local capacity to fund existing and future capital and operating expenditures.
Grants-In Lieu: The Prince George TAC has an interest in receiving compensation for any grants-in lieu lost from municipal revenue. Federal and provincial governments and Crown corporations pay local governments grants in lieu of property taxes. If settlement lands are included within existing municipal boundaries and senior governments and Crown corporations undertake to develop property in the settlement area, then the grants-in lieu may be lost as a source of municipal revenue unless they are replaced by other sources of revenue.
The Loss of Tax Base: - If non-reserve settlement lands are removed from the municipal assessment rolls and then taxed by the First Nation, the loss of existing tax revenues may be significant in some cases. The Prince George TAC has an interest in the creation of a process in place for compensating municipalities for loss of tax revenues.
Local Government Grants: Grants based on population numbers (e.g., Municipal General Grants) could be impacted if First Nations request the pro-rata portion of the grant related to the First Nation population. For example, under the current allocation process for the unconditional grant, the population living on reserve lands within a municipality is counted as part of the municipal population. Smaller municipalities with relatively large reserve populations could experience a drastic loss of revenue as a result of changes to the current system of counting population.
These smaller municipalities also rely more heavily on these grants to augment their budgets than do larger local governments, so loss of a substantial portion of the grants could cripple the local governments ability to provide services to residents.
Provincial Grant Program: First Nations may negotiate access to existing provincial grant programs. Unless the province increases the overall grant money available, the local government portion will be reduced, which would cause financial hardship for many communities.
Financing Commitments: Municipal financing commitments are usually a 10-20 year repayment obligation and agreements to provide services and infrastructure to settlement lands must reflect the financial time line. Local governments must receive assurances that these critical time lines will be respected.
Accessing New Industrial Tax Base: Local governments often access new industrial tax revenue through boundary extensions. This opportunity may be reduced or made more difficult after treaties are negotiated, if First Nations become a party to future industrial property tax sharing agreements. The potential for communities to assess new industrial tax bases in the future needs to be provided for in treaty settlements.
Future Development on Settlement Lands: Unless there is a level playing field with respect to environmental regulation, income tax, sales and labor legislation, new or existing development may prefer to local on settlement lands.
Economic Development: Local government is interested that there be equity in taxation so that a ``level playing field is established in this crucial area. This issue must be settled in the negotiations.
Mechanisms and opportunities for joint and co-ventures and partnerships between the communities must be supported and encouraged both in the negotiation process and in the post-settlement period.
Cumulative Impacts: The potential cumulative impact of changed revenue/taxation regimes on the local taxpayer is significant and the total impact must be considered as an integral part of the negotiation process. Impact studies must be part of the negotiation process.
Access to Resources: The PGTAC has identified an interest in land use planning to ensure that those processes are carried out in a manner which strikes an appropriate balance between economic sustainability and environmental sustainability. Local communities which depend on resource extraction are vitally interested in ensuring that their communities continue to have access to resources upon which they depend.
Maintain LRMP planning work: Land use planning has the ability to create certainty which is required for long term investment in local communities. Many members of communities in the Northern Interior including members of the PGTAC have spent numerous hours engaged in LRMP tables. The PGTAC has identified an interest in not undoing the substantial planning work which has been done in the LRMP tables in the Northern Interior area.
Priority of LRMP Plans: The PGTAC has an interest that LRMP planning take precedence over other planning processes and treaties respect the paramountcy of those plans on Crown Land. Therefore any treaty rights which are negotiated will strive to be compatible with the objectives of the LRMP plans.
Just as the LRMP seeks balance between the uses of land, so treaties strive for the same. The PGTAC seeks balance in several ways. One is the balance between land use plans. This balance is the environmental and ecological balance between protection of wildlife and resources versus resource extraction or economic activity. This balance assumes that multiple uses of land are possible.
Another component of this balance is that between the needs of First Nation communities for economic sustainability and the needs of other communities for the same. In responding to these needs the scales must strive for balance between the interests of First Nations communities and other communities.
The PGTAC has an interest in a dispute resolution mechanism to resolve differences between First Nations and local governments. (See discussion under dispute resolution).
First Nations participation in Land and Resource Management Plans: The PGTAC has identified an interest in having First Nations participate in LRMPs so that First Nations interests can be taken into account early in the planning process to avoid having to re-write the plan at a later date.
Principles of Land Stewardship: The PGTAC appreciates that First Nations will acquire land through treaty for their own use known as Treaty Settlement Lands. The PGTAC has identified an interest in having the broad principles of land stewardship apply to Treaty Settlement Lands. Such principles could include sustainability and respect for biodiversity.
The Prince George TAC has an interest in local government consultation in land-use issues on settlement lands in the same way they are currently part of land-use decisions on Crown land and on lands under the jurisdiction of other local governments. Treaties will endeavor to establish joint planning processes which will ensure that land-use planning on settlement lands is coordinated with local governments.
Dispute Resolution: The PGTAC has identified an interest in having a mechanism negotiated in treaty which provides for the resolution of disputes between First Nations governments and local government. This dispute resolution mechanism could cover a wide variety of disputes however in the planning context it would cover disputes that arise from zoning decisions which may have negative impacts across boundaries.
The PGTAC has expressed an interest that the nature of the mechanism be as informal as possible and that it involve more than merely the obligation to consult. The public hearing process may provide a model as envisioning a mechanism which has a powerful ability to influence the result. The PGTAC had identified ``good neighborliness as the manner in which they would like to conduct their relations with First Nations governments. This concept has applicability to the approach taken to resolve disputes with First Nations Governments.
Tax Base of Local Government: The PGTAC has an interest in maintaining tax base and not having land removed from its taxing authority and jurisdiction without it being done in a fair and equitable manner. Under the existing regime land within the boundaries of a municipality can become reserve lands and therefore taken out of the taxing authority of Local Government without the consent of Local Government.
After treaties have been negotiated the identity of land which will have the character of Treaty Settlement Land will be known. First Nations ability to acquire new lands by purchase or making adjustments to existing boundaries through amendments to treaties may impact Local Government interests. The PGTAC has identified an interest that its own tax base and jurisdiction not change without a fair, equitable process in place to address potential revenue losses and other impacts.
Treaties will ensure equitable financial contributions are provided by all users. Treaties will contain mechanisms for First Nations and local governments to work together on implementing cost effective social and other services such as health care, welfare, policing and education.
Equitable/Fair contribution to Services: Where services are provided by local government and those services are used by and benefit citizens outside the tax base for that local government, a mechanism for fair contribution to those services needs to be in place. The most frequently cited example of this is the operation of solid waste disposal systems which are operated by Regional Districts and for which municipalities contribute to the costs.
Co-ordination of Planning function: The Prince George TAC has identified an interest in harmonizing the planning function between Treaty Settlement Lands and municipalities. Municipal and First Nations planning will have affects outside their planning boundaries. The following planning functions touch upon environmental management functions:
Treaties will ensure certainty so that agreements with First Nations can be enforced. Treaties will create mechanisms and processes to direct how First Nations and local government will interact. The federal and provincial fiduciary function in a post-treaty era will be clear and concise.
Relationships with First Nations: The PGTAC has an interest in continued good relationships as presently exist between local First Nations and governments. For purposes of treaty the PGTAC would encourage closer examination of wording similar to Nisgaa Agreement-in-Principle, page 113.
LOCAL AND REGIONAL RELATIONSHIPS
1. The Final Agreement will include provisions in respect of the relationship between Nisgaa Government and the Kitimat-Stikine Regional District including such matters as:
a. the delivery of Regional District services;
b. coordination between Nisgaa Government and the Regional District with respect to common areas of responsibility, such as land use planning, health services, and infrastructure development; and
c. representation of Nisgaa Government and residents of Nisgaa Lands on Regional District.
2. The Nisgaa Tribal Council is committed to continuation of the cooperative relationships that have existed for many years with the non-Nisgaa residents of the fee simple lands within Nisgaa Lands.
Harmonization: If the delegation of environmental protection functions devolve to First Nations and that function involves the setting of standards then there is a need to harmonize those standards with those of Local Government and those of the Province. (See discussion under Parity)
Parity with First Nations Governments in dealing with Provincial Government: A broad based interest of the Prince George TAC is that governance powers given to First Nations do not result in local government influence with the Province being less than First Nations Governments. It is contemplated that First Nations may be given delegated authority over environmental protection functions pertaining to Treaty Settlement Land and treaty interests in Crown Land as well as participation rights in Environmental Assessment. The Prince George TAC has identified an interest that powers which are granted to First Nations be consistent with powers currently enjoyed by local government.
Existing access will be assured through treaties. Treaty settlements will not threaten the survival or well being of local communities through loss of management or jurisdiction of their resources.
Prince George Treaty Advisory Committee interests on Water Management: The PGTAC has expressed an interest that the negotiation of Water in treaties not impact upon the existing infrastructure of Local Government. The creation of new water sheds and the protection of those water sheds through treaty could have impacts upon existing infrastructure which is located within those watersheds or adjacent to them.
The Prince George TAC has identified an interest that the existing water supply of Local Governments constituents be preserved. The Prince George TAC has an interest that navigation rights through water courses, rivers and streams and access to fishing be protected.
Treaties will ensure standards on settlement lands are harmonized with existing federal, provincial and local standards and regulations. Lands that are defined as Crown, private, reserve or settlement lands will have one set of regulations. Building standards and highway signage will apply consistently.
The Prince George TAC has an interest in environmental standards being comparable on and off Treaty Settlement Lands. Other Local Governments have identified an interest that environmental standards strive for uniformity, meaning that the same standards will strive to be applied across the Province. The concern is that lower standards might be brought in one area thereby displacing the level playing field between jurisdictions and also resulting in transboundary pollution necessitating increased costs for remedial action.
Enforcement: The PGTAC has identified an interest that the Province maintain to the greatest extent possible the ability to enforce Provincial environmental legislation and standards on Treaty Settlement Lands and Crown Lands.
Local Government has identified an interest that environmental standards be consistently applied across boundaries. Therefore enforcement measures be uniform from one locality to another.
The Prince GeorgeTACs goal is to ensure that local treaties are negotiated and finalized according to the interests and principles outlined. The interests expressed are by no means definitive or finalized. Rather they are part of an ongoing list of the factors to be considered and discussed in treaty talks over land, governance and other topics.
By outlining these interests the PGTAC is affirming the notion that local government interests cover a broad range of areas. These general and specific interests are to be taken into account during the treaty negotiation process.
The PGTAC is encouraged by progress made so far in local negotiations and will continue in efforts to foster good relationships with local First Nations.