The British Columbia Treaty Commission is the only independent tripartite statutory body in the country whose mandate is to support reconciliation. The Treaty Commission is the independent body responsible for facilitating treaty negotiations among First Nations in BC and the governments of Canada and BC. The Treaty Commission does not negotiate treaties — that is done by the three parties at each negotiation table.
The Treaty Commission and the treaty negotiations process were established in 1992 by agreement among Canada, BC, and the First Nations Summit. They are guided by those agreements and the 1991 Report of the BC Claims Task Force, which is the blueprint for the made-in-BC treaty process. The Treaty Commission and the six-stage treaty negotiations process were designed to advance negotiations and facilitate fair and durable treaties.
The Treaty Commission has three main roles:
- Facilitating treaty negotiations, including assisting the Parties in finding solutions and resolving disputes;
- Allocating negotiation support funding to enable First Nations to participate in negotiations; and
- Educating the public and providing information about treaty negotiations.
In 2018 this mandate was expanded to include supporting negotiating Parties in implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (TRC Calls to Action), the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples, and the recognition of First Nations title and rights.
Independence is central to the mandate of the Treaty Commission. Independence provides the Treaty Commission with the authority to ensure fair and impartial negotiations, which are essential to reconciliation. This is consistent with the right to fair, independent, impartial, and transparent mechanisms to assist with the recognition of Indigenous rights as set out in the UN Declaration.
The Treaty Commission is comprised of a Chief Commissioner, four Commissioners, and is currently supported by 11 staff members. The Commission’s operating costs are funded by the federal and provincial governments. The Government of Canada contributes 60 per cent and the Government of British Columbia contributes 40 per cent. In the 2018/19 fiscal year, operating funding was $3.05 million.
The Treaty Commission's primary role is to oversee the negotiation process to make sure that the parties are being effective and making progress in negotiations. In carrying out the recommendations of the BC Claims Task Force, the Treaty Commission has three roles: facilitation, funding and public information and education.
The Treaty Commission acts independently to:
- Lobby and advocate for improvements to the treaty negotiation process
- Educate and raise knowledge and comprehension levels regarding the benefits of treaty making
- Allocate funds to First Nations to support negotiations
- Dedicate energy and resources to treaty making through active and effective facilitation of government-government-government negotiations