Principles must now lead to real change for Indigenous peoples

Tsilhqot’in Nation Accepts 10 Principles of Government of Canada Respecting Nation to Nation Dialogue

NEWS RELEASE FROM TSILHQOT'IN TERRITORY, B.C. -  July 24, 2017 - The Tsilhqot’in Nation commends Minister Wilson-Raybould and the Canada Government for its announcement of the "Principles respecting the Government relationship with Indigenous Peoples".

The "10 Principles" reset Canada’s approach to nation-to-nation relationships and call for respect and recognition for Indigenous self-determination and our systems of law and governance. (Tsilhqot'in Nation Accepts 10 Principles)

Particularly important are the Federal Government’s commitments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, and to abandon its long-standing policy of requiring the extinguishment, modification or surrender of rights as a basis for negotiations.

Like all Indigenous peoples in Canada, the Tsilhqot’in Nation has faced a long history of denial.  In the Tsilhqot’in Nation litigation, British Columbia and Canada denied the very existence of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.  It required decades of litigation in the courts, culminating at the Supreme Court of Canada, to achieve judicial recognition of the Tsilhqot’in Nation once and for all.

For this reason, true nation-to-nation engagement between Canada and the Tsilhqot’in Nation is long overdue and calls for immediate attention.  Canada’s "10 Principles" are a positive starting point.  The Tsilhqot’in Nation will present Canada with Tsilhqot’in principles of recognition, grounded in Tsilhqot’in law and culture, as a foundation for mutual recognition.  

On this basis, of mutual recognition and respect, the Tsilhqot’in Nation stands ready to move beyond the Indian Act and stand in a true nation-to-nation relationship with Canada.  The test of Canada’s commitment to the "10 Principles" will be how deeply Canada is willing to embrace Indigenous Nations, and our rich systems of law and governance, as equals and true partners in charting the future of this country and the path of reconciliation.   

Chief Joe Alphonse, Chief of Tl’etinqox, Tribal Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, says, "We welcome this new approach from the Government of Canada.  It was past time to hit the ‘reset’ button.  Our people will never settle for anything less than full recognition of who we are, as a nation that is far older than this country, with our own laws and our own governance. These Principles are a positive step.  At the same time, they won’t mean anything until we see the lives of the people in our communities improving for the better.  I’m calling on the Prime Minister and Minister Wilson-Raybould to meet with our leadership and start making that change, based on mutual recognition and respect.  It is time to get down to the real work". 

Chief Roger William, Chief of Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government, Vice Chair of TNG, says, "For over 150 years, from the time of smallpox and the Chilcotin War, our people have had to fight for basic respect and recognition in this country.  We had to go to court for recognition that we are a nation—the Tsilhqot’in Nation—and not simply bands under the Indian Act.  To this day, Canada has yet to recognize the Tsilhqot’in Nation as an order of government with our own laws, jurisdiction and responsibilities.  That has to change.  We look forward to Canada moving forward with these 10 Principles and working with us to finally recognize the Tsilhqot’in Nation and move beyond the Indian Act to the strength and authority of the ?Esggidam (our ancestors before contact)".