Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words with respect to this bill. We went through it at committee and we had, of course, Chief Williams from the Sliammon First Nation; Roy Francis, their negotiator; Tom Molloy from Saskatchewan, who was the chief federal negotiator; and Gloria Chow from the government, as well.
It was an extremely interesting meeting with very well- articulated positions. It's another example of the B.C. treaty process. This is the fourth case we've dealt with in the Senate over the last number of years.
The Tsawwassen First Nation, Maa-nulth and Yale First Nations have come through the B.C. process. Our committee is familiar with the B.C. treaty process, from our report done a couple of years ago, and how it takes so long. This is another example, where it has taken this group 20 years to get to the final point, but they've come to a point where they are on the cusp of realizing their dreams. It's a very exciting moment. I must congratulate them for having the fortitude and spirit to carry this forward, despite the length of time it has taken.
The other thing about these treaties in B.C. is that it costs the individual First Nation a lot of money. I don't remember the exact sum, but it will cost them — $11 million will have to come out of their fiscal transfer of $31 million. They will have to pay one third of the fiscal transfer they receive in order for this agreement to be finalized. That's a consideration.
They are very close to Powell River and they were talking about the forestry industry there and how this is beautiful land out in B.C. I'd love to go and visit. They went to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the paper mill there. They said it was a bittersweet moment because the site of their traditional land, where the Sliammon First Nation originated, is on the site of the pulp and paper mill. That is land that was traditionally theirs which they do not now own. Regardless, they have taken the position to move ahead.
They said that as time passes they could see Crown land disappearing around them, so they had to take advantage of the opportunity and move forward. A lot of their land apparently is on the waterfront, so they'll be able to do economic development along there, which of course will benefit their people tremendously.
We asked why it takes so long to negotiate these treaties; why did it take 20 years? It's hard to put in a few words. One of the issues brought out yesterday, which has been brought up before, is one of trust between negotiating parties. It takes years for a trusting relationship to be developed between the parties. It also takes time for community members themselves to adjust to the idea of moving from their lifestyle and accepting this new agreement, which is a very different agreement and something they're not used to. It takes a lot of time to convince the community members themselves that this is the best way forward.
In order to ratify these agreements there is a high bar set. In order to get ratification, you really have to convince the majority of your members that this is the way to go. The chief and negotiator talked about how their First Nation has a high percentage of youth: something like 60 per cent. Some of them are well educated, and this will provide an opportunity for them to come back to the reserve and bolster economic development and be employed on the reserve rather than lose their talent to other cities in the neighbouring area.
It sounds wonderful. It was also interesting to note that there were a couple of court challenges, as happened with other of the B.C. treaty negotiations. They were both quashed in court, but one was from the member of Parliament who actually represents the region. Fortunately he really didn't have a leg to stand on, so the agreement has gone forward.
I must congratulate Sliammon First Nation. It's nice that we're able to deal with something that opens the door to the future for all members of their community, and I congratulate them and wish them all the best.