What is Treaty?

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 stated that the Crown must negotiate and sign treaties with the Indigenous people before land could be ceded to a colony. The Government of the Colony of BC failed to negotiate many treaties and as a result, most of the province’s land is not covered by treaties.

The two distinct types of treaties in Canada were separated by almost one hundred years. Modern treaties deal with areas of Canada where treaties were never signed with aboriginal peoples, like most parts of British Columbia. Resource extraction, the expansion of national railways and the urbanization of many parts of Canada led the government to be more willing to enter into treaties. Previously they had been avoided, as it was assumed they would be too costly. Once it was realized that there was great wealth to be extracted from First Nations land, more pressure existed to finalize these treaties. Treaties signed with aboriginal people in Canada prior to 1923 are commonly referred to as historic treaties.

The Colony of Vancouver Island was leased to the Hudson’s Bay Company for 10 years beginning in 1849. Then, the chief factor and future governor, James Douglas made 14 land purchases over four years. To negotiate the purchases Douglas began negotiations with the separate nations, beginning with the Songhees nation in April 1850. Treaty 8 in the northeastern corner of the BC was signed July 1, 1899. These were the only treaties signed in BC until the Nisga’a agreement was signed in May 1998.

Of the historic treaties, they came in two sets. Treaty numbers 1 through 7 from 1871 to 1877 and Numbers 8 through 11 from 1899 to 1921. The first treaties were key in advancing European settlement across the Prairie regions as well as the development of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In the second set, resource extraction was the main motive for government

Treaties are constitutionally protected, government-to-government agreements creating long- term, mutually binding commitments. Treaties negotiated through the BC treaty process will identify, define and implement a range of rights and obligations, including existing and future interests in land, sea and resources, structures and authorities of governments, regulatory processes, amending processes, dispute resolution, financial compensation and fiscal relations.