The province is under fire for reneging on an agreement to appoint former Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott as chief of the B.C. Treaty Commission. After months of negotiating with First Nations groups, the B.C. cabinet decided at the 11th hour to nix the appointment, after Abbott had already begun the transition to his new job, which was to begin April 1.
The First Nations Summit said it was “taken aback and seriously disappointed” by the decision. “The province’s blatant disregard for agreement among the Principals and processes already undertaken is unacceptable,” reads a press release from the Summit. “This situation raises questions about our ability to rely upon agreements made among the Principals and the provincial government’s commitment to treaty negotiations in BC and to achieving reconciliation with First Nations.”
Outgoing chief commissioner Sophie Pierre wrote a press release critical of the province. “George Abbott is a man of integrity, intelligence and extensive experience who would have benefited the treaty process, First Nations and all British Columbians,” Pierre said. “This retraction of the chief commissioner selection after months of agreement, expectation and reliance by the other parties raises questions about B.C.’s commitment to the treaty negotiation process.”
Abbott said he was offered the job last September by Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad.
In a press release, Minister Rustad re-committed to the treaty process. “Our government is committed to working with First Nations on the treaty negotiations process in British Columbia. There are a number of important treaty tables that are reaching milestones that will bring long-term reconciliation with the Crown to their communities. However, I have also heard from many First Nations that the treaty process, mandates and negotiations take far too long and they are looking for a better way.
“Finding lasting reconciliation and resolving the land-claim issues are of critical importance for all British Columbians. Now is the appropriate time to reflect with the Principals in the treaty process on what lies ahead for the BC Treaty Commission so that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities alike can prosper.
“While this dialogue continues we will work with the Principals to appoint a chief commissioner and ensure that the work of the BC Treaty Commission goes on.”