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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reconciliation 'at the end of the day' : decolonizing territorial governance in British Columbia after Delgamuukw Kotaska, Janalyn Gail


This dissertation examines new relationships and reconciliation processes between First Nations and the province of British Columbia after the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada ruling in Delgamuukw, a decision that confirmed the continuing existence of Aboriginal title in the absence of treaties. Beginning with existing theories and critiques of reconciliation, I construct a framework for evaluating if reconciliation processes, and particularly those related to territorial governance, are genuine. The framework is then applied to an examination of new relationships, including co-governance, and a new Indigenous system of territorial governance: the Coastal First Nations’ Regional Monitoring System. In order to better understand how relationships are changing and competing claims to land and resources are being reconciled, I interviewed First Nation and provincial policy- and decision-makers, engaged in participant-observation as an employee of various First Nation groups, studied a case of Indigenous territorial governance, and analysed documentary evidence. I found that by strategically using the uncertainty of undefined Aboriginal rights, some First Nations are regaining governing power over their territories and inculcating a new vision for reconciliation in the province. Instead of focusing on treaties in a process designed to create certainty for settler governments, reconciliation is now seen by decision-makers on both sides as an incremental and ongoing process of building relationships, creating sustainable economies, co-governing with a common vision, and building capacity to meet these goals. I also argue that, despite systemic change, the relationship between the province and First Nations remains colonial. Ultimately, genuine reconciliation will require a relationship to which First Nations agree. Other requirements include the province relinquishing territorial control and observing Indigenous sovereignty in practice, the province compensating Indigenous peoples for their losses, and both parties negotiating on equal footing the sharing of decision-making authority and revenues where First Nations agree to co-govern. Overall, the study addresses power as yielded not in a single decolonizing act, but through many small acts in an ongoing process of reconciliation, thereby illuminating decolonization as it is currently and arguably occurring.

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