WILLIAMS LAKE, BC, Aug. 28, 2019 /CNW/ - The federal and provincial governments have joined with the Ts?ilhqot'in National Government and the six T?ilhqot'in communities to celebrate the signing of the Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement ("Towards it, We are Striving"), a historic reconciliation agreement to support T?ilhqot'in self-determination, five years after the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Tsilhqot'in Nation Decision.
Leaders from the Ts?ilhqot'in Nation along with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, and the Honourable Scott Fraser, British Columbia's Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, have signed the new five-year Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement. The six Ts?ilhqot'in Nation signatories included: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair (Tl'etinqox); Chief Russell Myers Ross, Vice Chair (Yune?it'in); Chief Francis Laceese (Tl'esqox); Chief Roy Stump (?Esdilagh); Chief Otis Guichon (T?ideldel); and Chief Jimmy Lulua (Xeni Gwet'in).
The Tsilhqot'in Nation Decision declared Aboriginal title for the first time in Canada, in the homeland of the T?ilhqot'in peoples. Since that time, the federal and provincial governments have worked separately with the T?ilhqot'in Nation to implement the Tsilhqot'in Nation Decision and to chart a path to lasting reconciliation. The new agreement brings all three parties to the table to continue their work together.
The purpose of the Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement is to bring transformative change to the lives of the Ts?ilhqot'in peoples and to the relationship between the Ts?ilhqot'in Nation, Canada and British Columbia. It is the first tripartite reconciliation agreement of its kind in the province.
A core principle of the agreement is to support the self-determination of the T?ilhqot'in Nation. This agreement is a tangible expression of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which recognizes every Nation has unique and distinct paths to self-determination.
The agreement commits the Nation and the provincial and federal governments to sustained progress on eight Ts?ilhqot'in priorities: Ts?ilhqot'in governance; language and culture; children and families; healthy communities; justice; education and training; Ts?ilhqot'in Nen (lands, water and resources); and economic development.
Recognizing the social and cultural importance of fisheries to the T?ilhqot'in Nation, the agreement will also support the role of the T?ilhqot'in Nation in stewardship, monitoring and fisheries management of T?ilhqot'in fisheries.
The agreement will also support negotiations over the next five years to effect the practical transition to Ts?ilhqot'in governance in the declared title area as recognized in the Ts?ilhqot'in Nation Decision.
"Today the Ts?ilhqot'in Nation takes an historic step forward as they rebuild their nation and advocate for their people. The Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement exemplifies true partnership in a Government-to-Government and Nation-to-Nation relationship grounded in Indigenous leadership, vision and self-determination."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations
"The 2014 Supreme Court of Canada decision was landmark, as is this agreement. Fisheries are a key component of the agreement that will contribute to creating transformative change to the lives of T?ilhqot'in peoples. This ground breaking agreement provides a pathway towards lasting reconciliation rooted in partnership, collaboration and self-determination and acknowledges the social and cultural significance of fisheries to the T?ilhqot'in Nation."
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard
"We have spent decades fighting in courts and on the front lines to protect our lands and our way of life. That fight is who we are as T?ilhqot'in peoples ? it is passed down directly from our T?ilhqot'in war chiefs of 1864/65. But we also want to see a better future for our children, a better life. That is what this Agreement is about: building a better future for our people, based on our priorities and our solutions. We commend the Prime Minister, Minister Bennett and the Government of Canada for following through on the commitments made to our people when they came to declared title lands to deliver the statement of exoneration for our war chiefs. We are ready to be the authors of our own future as T?ilhqot'in peoples."
Chief Joe Alphonse
Tribal Chair, Ts?ilhqot'in National Government
"The landmark Tsilhqot'in Nation Decision builds on what the courts have stated time and again, that Aboriginal Title and Rights exist and must be respected by all levels of government. The Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement builds on the collaborative work between B.C. and TNG since the 2014 decision and moves it forward ? with our federal partners now participating ? so that we can continue working together to turn the spirit and words of the court decision into tangible action that will benefit the Tsilhqot'in Nation and all residents of the Chilcotin."
The Honourable Scott Fraser
British Columbia Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
"Since the Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 that affirmed that Aboriginal Title exists, our Nation has sought to reconcile the contestation of jurisdiction that is embedded in the history of small pox and the 1864 hangings. With the exoneration of our past leaders by the Provincial and Federal Government, and with political support, it is time to put our energy into building our Self-Determining Nation. The Gwets'en Nilt'i Pathway Agreement allows our leadership to discuss the ways in which we want to better ourselves by working together - to understand how to unravel a deeply horrific colonial past and make the best attempts to create a relationship, capacity within, and governing authority that is based on our values and laws."
Chief Russell Myers Ross
Vice Chair, Ts?ilhqot'in National Government
"Five years ago, the Supreme Court of Canada declared Aboriginal title for the first time in the history of Canada, in our T?ilhqot'in homeland. It was a historic moment for our Nation and for Canada. This Agreement continues the work that our Tsilhqot'in war chiefs began when they met, under a flag of truce, for peace talks. Today, we honour those who sacrificed their lives for our Nation by showing the world, that after 25 years of conflict in the courts, our declared title lands can be a showcase of Indigenous-led governance, in partnership with BC and Canada."
Chief Jimmy Lulua
Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government
"This Agreement is grounded in recognition and respect for our Aboriginal rights and title, including our rights of self-determination and self-governance under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. As T?ilhqot'in, we cannot and will not rest until our rights, our title and our jurisdiction are recognized throughout our homeland. This Agreement sets the table for that work and sets a pathway together to bring these commitments to life in a way that reflects our aspirations as T?ilhqot'in peoples."
Chief Francis Laceese
Tl'esqox First Nation
"As a Nation, we have had to make sacrifices to fight for our rights and title in the Canadian courts, and to oppose projects like New Prosperity that threaten our culture and sacred places. Our priority is the health and well-being of our T?ilhqot'in citizens, families and communities. This Agreement sets out a shared vision with BC and Canada for transforming the lives of our people. That is where we need to invest our time and our energy and I look forward to the work ahead."
Chief Otis Guichon Sr.
T?ideldel First Nation
"This Agreement is an historic achievement. As Chiefs and leaders, we always put our communities and our people first. It is important to us that this Agreement is based on the '8 Pillars' of change identified by our communities as a call to action. This is truly a 'Made-in-T?ilhqot'in' agreement, by our people, for our people. I am excited by this opportunity to deliver long overdue change for our communities, with the support and partnership of BC and Canada."
Chief Roy Stump
?Esdilagh First Nation
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SOURCE Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC)