The Treaty Commission’s work encompasses three main roles across a broad range of activities: facilitating negotiations including assisting the Parties in ﬁnding solutions and resolving disputes, allocating negotiation support funding to enable First Nation participation in the negotiations, and educating the public about treaty negotiations
The Treaty Commission is the only tripartite statutory body in the country whose mandate is to support reconciliation. The BCTC Agreement and associated legislation states that the primary role of the Treaty Commission is to assist the Parties and the Principals as an independent facilitator of the negotiations.
As an independent facilitator, the BCTC assists in advancing reconciliation through the made-in-BC treaty negotiations process by ensuring the work of the Parties is effective and is making progress. To do this, the Treaty Commission:
- assists the Parties in developing solutions and in resolving disputes
- observes and reports on negotiations progress and encourages timely negotiations
- chairs key meetings at negotiating tables •
- reports publicly on key opportunities and obstacles
- works with the Principals on improving the treaty negotiations process
- monitors and reports on progress and encourages timely negotiations
Commissioners and staff are involved in an increasing variety of facilitation initiatives.
This increased demand has arisen from a number of circumstances, including: intensiﬁed treaty negotiations at Stage 5 and Stage 4 tables, completion of ﬁnal agreement negotiations and the ratiﬁcation requirements for First Nations, stalled treaty negotiations, intensiﬁed inter-First Nation dialogue on overlapping and shared territories and complex consultations between the Crown and First Nations affected by overlaps, as well as intensiﬁed internal First Nations dialogue, especially in multi-community First Nations with respect to issues of shared territory, governance, and capacity.
In recent years, the Treaty Commission has begun to take on special initiatives to support treaty negotiations and provide First Nations with more tools. These have included:
- hosting forums that create a venue for sharing knowledge, experiences, and best practices, especially between First Nations currently negotiating and First Nations that are implementing modern treaties
- publishing resources, such as the Ratification Guide, created to assist First Nations with community approval and ratiﬁcation votes, and the Human Resource Capacity Tool Kit, to support First Nations in preparing for self-government
Public Education and Information
The Treaty Commission’s third role is to provide the public with information on treaty negotiations in BC, and to educate the public on its role in supporting and understanding treaty making.
The governments of Canada and BC also share the responsibility of providing public information on negotiations, and the three Parties to each set of negotiations are required to provide speciﬁc information on the progress of their treaty tables.
To fulﬁll this mandate, the Treaty Commission:
- reports on the status of treaty negotiations throughout the year in its newsletter, Update, and consolidates this information in its annual report
- organizes Forums bringing First Nations together to learn from each another
- writes publications to share best practices
- with First Nations and the public, such as the Ratification Guide and the Human Resources Capacity Tool Kit
- communicates with the public on treaty negotiations at conferences, tradeshows, special events, community forums, meetings, and schools
- meets with federal and provincial departments to advocate for the importance of treaty negotiations in fulﬁlling Canada and BC’s constitutional obligations
- maintains a website with current and historical information on treaty negotiations and all publications, including annual reports, news releases, newsletters, forum materials, videos, and teaching materials
- engages with the public using social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and most recently Twitter
The Treaty Commission is the independent funding authority for treaty negotiations in BC, as recommended in the Task Force Report and set out in the BCTC Agreement and associated legislation.
The role of the BCTC is to “ensure that the process is fair and impartial, that all parties have sufficient resources to do the job, and that the parties work effectively to reach agreements” [Task Force Report, p. 35]. The allocation of negotiation support funding to First Nations assists with this principle. First Nations have the choice of accepting contribution funding or taking any portion of the loans allocated.
Allocations are made up of a maximum of 80% loans advanced by Canada, and a minimum of 20% non-repayable contribution funding. Typically for every $100 of negotiation support funding allocated, $80 is a loan from Canada, $12 is a contribution from Canada, and $8 is a contribution from BC.
Loan advances to a First Nation must end at least 30 days prior to the three Parties signing the ﬁnal agreement. However, contribution funding is available until the effective date of a treaty.
Since negotiations began in May 1993, the Treaty Commission has allocated approximately $682 million in negotiation support funding to 60 First Nations. Approximately $534 million of that funding is loans and $148 million is contributions.
At March 31, 2016, outstanding negotiation loans totaled approximately $523 million [excluding accrued interest]. The Tsawwassen First Nation, the ﬁve Maa-nulth First Nations, and Tla’amin Nation have begun to repay their negotiation loans.