The University of British Columbia
First Nations in Canada are seeking new land management relations that fully include and accommodate their Aboriginal rights, any outstanding Aboriginal title, and other interests. Various Canadian judicial decisions have stated that, at a minimum, consultation with First Nations is required when Aboriginal rights may be impacted by land-use activities. This research involved applying case study to identify critical elements that lead to something deeper than mere consultation, as called for in the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada Delgamuukw decision. This thesis describes six land management cases from four First Nations communities in British Columbia. The cases involve natural resources including fish, minerals, parks and energy and took place in the decade following the Delgamuukw decision. While the cases were some of the best examples of land-related negotiations from around the province, the cases highlight the distance that the Crown and non-Indigenous people need to go to achieve meaningful involvement of First Nations in land management.
Through the analysis of interviews, emergent themes were identified and developed into normative principles for meaningful negotiation with First Nations. The major themes identified in the cases included the recognition of Aboriginal rights, a commitment to building trust and relationships, power sharing, and a respect for cultural differences. These cases also demonstrated the need to carefully consider adequate resources, space, place and timing that are inclusive of the First Nations’ individual situations and perspectives. Moreover, the research shows that there is difficulty asserting and meeting ontological needs when basic needs such as employment, housing and social welfare are yet to be met within the community.
Fundamental principles that ought to be followed when embarking on land- management negotiations with Indigenous peoples in British Columbia, particularly First Nations with unresolved title issues include: recognizing rights and title, embarking on negotiation, enabling power rebalance, emphasizing strong relationships and trust, having respect for First Nations’ ontology, achieving meaningful accommodation, and ensuring community involvement and support. Ultimately, decision-making will involve compromises on both sides. In order for these compromises to be balanced between parties, the often unequal power and resources of the two parties will need to be redressed.