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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Getting to the table: making the decision to negotiate comprehensive land claims in British Columbia Thomas, Patty


Although the rest of Canada has a long history of treaty making, British Columbia has refused to negotiate treaties with Natives since 1854. In 1991, B.C. reversed this position. Events across Canada in the years 1990 and 1991 provide a case study to explain why this decision was made. Quebec’s Oka crisis catalyzed the decision making process underway in B.C. First, during the Oka crisis, B.C. agreed to cooperate with the federal government on a strategy to settle Indian land claims. Second, following the Oka crisis, the First Nations and the federal and provincial governments set up the B.C. Claims Task Force to recommend how these negotiations should proceed. Third, the Task Force made recommendations to address numerous Native grievances and to prevent “another Oka.” Fourth, because of the changed political environment in B.C., both governments accepted all the Task Force’s recommendations by December 10, 1991. It can be argued that B.C. took a rational approach in making this decision to negotiate. The B.C. comprehensive claims conflict can be viewed as part of the evolution of the Native/non—Native relationship in Canada. In early Canada, the two parties initially cooperated through trading and military alliances. Next, in the coercive phase of their relationship, the parties interacted through treaty making and assimilation attempts. Starting in 1969, Natives used protests, lobbying, and legal cases to confront non—Natives. Although B.C. followed a similar pattern, this province’s most notable difference is that no major treaties were signed here. Now, by agreeing to negotiate comprehensive land claims, B.C. is starting to re—establish the cooperative relationship that Natives and non—Natives initially had.

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