Indigenous people have been present on the lands of BC for more than 14,000 years. This is more than 10,000 years previous to the construction of the Pyramids of Giza which date back just over 4,000 years.
In the 269 years since British, Spanish, Russian, and American sailors began visiting the area and British Columbia was established, there have been few treaties signed by the many nations across the province. Certain legal rights are guaranteed to the Indigenous peoples in BC as well as a formal requirement for consultation by Industry and the Government of BC. With the passing of Bill 41, a commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples across all legislation in BC, the need to respect traditional territories and rights is further strengthened.
In November 2019, the Government of BC passed the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which looks to align all legislation with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
Federally, many Indigenous rights stem from the Indian Act, which outlines services as well as rights to “Status Indians” on reserve and when doing traditional practices such as hunting and fishing.
Indigenous title is a unique interest in the land that encompasses a right to exclusive use and occupation of the land. There are currently multiple Indigenous title cases before the BC Courts to reaffirm ownership over traditional territories.
Treaty rights are set out in solemn and binding agreements between the Crown and First Nations and those rights enjoy constitutional protection.
Historic treaties generally refer to land surrendered by First Nations in exchange for benefits that may include hunting, fishing and trapping. These include Treaty No. 8 in north eastern BC and the 14 Douglas Treaties on Vancouver Island. They all occurred prior to 1925.
Modern treaties are agreements that set out rights and obligations for all parties, including land ownership and any consultation obligations. The first modern treaty in BC was with the Nisga’a Nation.
Since then, treaties with Tsawwassen and Maa-nulth First Nations have concluded. Several other negotiations are currently in the final stages of completion.
Visit the BC Treaty Commission website for information on treaties in British Columbia.Explore More