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Aboriginal Affairs

Agreement Renews Treaty Discussions with Gitxsan First Nation

15/09/1998

HAZELTON - The provincial government and hereditary chiefs of the Gitxsan First Nation signed today a reconciliation agreement to address issues raised by the December 1997 Supreme Court Delgamuukw decision and resume treaty discussions.

The agreement was signed by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Dale Lovick and the Gitxsan chiefs at the K'san Heritage Village, near Hazelton.

"The reconciliation agreement will serve as the basis for renewing our relationship with the Gitxsan First Nation," said Lovick, who is visiting communities in northwest B.C. this week.

"With this agreement we can establish a productive and meaningful process that will allow us to discuss issues in a mutually respectful manner and work towards a treaty settlement that provides land-use certainty and economic stability for Gitxsan and non-aboriginal communities," added Lovick.

The Reconciliation Agreement Between Her Majesty The Queen In Right Of British Columbia And The Hereditary Chiefs Of The Gitxsan involves three levels of discussions: * B.C.-Gitxsan bilateral issues - including Gitxsan participation in wildlife and wildlife habitat management, forestry development and training initiatives, development of a forestry consultation protocol, consultation on mining and petroleum development, economic development, and human and social services; * Canada-Gitxsan bilateral issues - including an acknowledgement by both parties that Canada has primary responsibility in areas such as fisheries, capacity-building and financial compensation; and, * B.C.-Canada-Gitxsan trilateral issues - subject to agreement by Canada, an agreement to resume treaty discussions based on the Gitxsan framework agreement signed July 13, 1995.

Litigation on Delgamuukw began in 1984 when Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan hereditary chiefs launched a court action against Canada and B.C. to secure ownership and jurisdiction over traditional territories covering 58,000 square kilometres of land in northwestern B.C.

The Dec. 11, 1997, Supreme Court of Canada decision in Delgamuukw recognized the existence of aboriginal title in Canada - but a decision on whether the Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan had established title in any of the territory claimed was referred back to trial. The court also sent a strong message that negotiation, not litigation, was the preferred way to resolve differences over the ownership and management of lands.

Framework agreements under the B.C. Treaty Commission process were signed with both the Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan in July 1995. In 1996, however, treaty negotiations with both First Nations were suspended over issues such as aboriginal rights and the appeal of the Delgamuukw case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

On Monday, Lovick and the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs also signed an accord in which both parties acknowledged the significance of the Delgamuukw decision and committed to resolving differences through negotiation rather than litigation.

The full text of the reconciliation agreement is available on the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs Internet web site (http://www.aaf.gov.bc.ca/aaf/) or by calling toll-free (1-800-880-1022). - 30 -

For more information, please contact: Peter Smith - Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs Phone: (250) 356-8750 (cell) 480-9653 Toll-free: 1-800-880-1022 Internet: http://www.aaf.gov.bc.ca/aaf/

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