BC Treaty Process --- a Scam
Says Gitxsan Leader--- A Champion for Change

by Tehaliwaskénhas - Bob Kennedy

October 24, 1999
Cowichan Nation

In recent weeks, Don Ryan has been delivering the same strong political message whether he speaks to audiences in the cities or in First Nation communities around British Columbia, "I'm here to spread the revolution, to get in the face of the government in Victoria". This is the mission of Ryan, who brings with him the power and fame of his people who fought for years to eventually win the Delgamuukw case in the Supreme Court of Canada. Now, he has the fascinating title of Director of Significant Progress for the Gitxsan Chiefs' Office.

To do his job he has travelled hundreds of miles from his own traditional territory to locate his office on Indian land near Victoria, British Columbia. Considering his politics and the fervour of his anti-BC Treaty platform, it is especially ironic that Ryan's new office is located next to the Songhees Nation's treaty negotiation office.

Sporting intensity, mixed with a good sense of humour he notes, "At least it's easy for them to join me if they choose to drop out of the treaty process". It is something more and more First Nations are contemplating these days because of their frustration over lack of progress, while the resources on their traditional territories are consumed by everyone but them.

Today Ryan is a guest of Chief Rick Thomas, councillors and community members of the Lyackson First Nation at a community meeting in the Cowichan Nation community hall, a couple of hours up island from the provincial capital.

Far enough away from the smoke and mirrors, there are no veiled references here. His words are straightforward and easy to understand as he encourages First Nations to reorganize themselves along their traditional culture, values and systems, and develop strategies to protect their land base and their people. "Start to exercise your interests. Cut the trees", he advises.

For him, the BC Treaty Process cannot meet their needs because it is a land selection model only and no different than the reserve creation system of the last century. With great confidence he says, "The whole treaty process is a scam. They're forcing you to select a land selection model. 10 hectares per person. 40-thousand dollars per person." He warns, "It's the five per cent solution".

Ryan's words contain enough energy to echo menacingly, all the way to Ottawa where the government of Canada is trying to pass the Nisga'a Treaty legislation, British Columbia's first modern-day treaty. It was not part of the BC Treaty process, but its' so-called five per cent solution has been templated into the other negotiations.

This champion of change has not only got his eye on scuttling the treaty process here. He believes aboriginal people must neutralize the Indian Act, and change the Forests Act to reflect their own control and interests and to provide them with economic benefit. In fact, he wants First Nations to aim toward changing all the provincial and federal laws, "Because they are hostile to your interests".

In the meantime he says, "The treaty table is mere entertainment".


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