See what people are asking about the Lheidli T’enneh Final Agreement Decision

Our relationship with the governments of Canada and British Columbia will change. The Agreement will mean we no longer are subject to the Indian Act. The Lheidli T’enneh will have a fully-empowered and recognized government under law and all three governments will provide services to members of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation. Respectful relationships with other First Nations and local municipal governments will also be continued.

The Final Agreement provides funding, which includes:

  • A one-time lump sum settlement of more than $18 million to be paid over a 10 year period
  • Enhanced annual block funding for programs and services like education and community health services under a side agreement that will be re-negotiated every five years
  • $12.1 million one-time funding to help set up a new Lheidli T’enneh government, for treaty management and for land, resource and fisheries management
  • The Lheidli T’enneh government will also share in the wealth from the resources of British Columbia through a fifty-year Resource Revenue Sharing agreement

Negotiated on behalf of all Lheidli T’enneh members by a negotiating team made up of Band members and hired professionals, the Final Agreement represents the fruit of more than 10 years of talks between the Lheidli T’enneh and the governments of British Columbia and Canada. Our people have long been leaders in treaty negotiations and we were the first to reach a Final Agreement in this way.

The Final Agreement is a treaty and land claim agreement that would be recognized and protected under the Canadian Constitution. It sets out the full details of our government-to-government relationship with Canada and British Columbia in four areas: governance, finance, land and natural resources. It provides a road-map for a prosperous and self-reliant future that our future generations may take pride in.

The Agreement has some limitations:

  • a large part of our traditional territory will continue to be Crown land; we will have harvesting rights, but we will not own all the land, only portions of it
  • we will not manage fish, wildlife and migratory birds on our own; other governments will have this management authority for the benefit of the Lheidli T’enneh and all Canadians
  • the Agreement will be difficult, if not impossible, to change
  • Lheidli T’enneh members will, over time, lose our tax exemption, however the taxes that will be collected will go to the Lheidli T’enneh government to help fund programs and services

The Agreement provides certainty in a number of areas such as land ownership, governance, and harvesting rights, for example, which will allow us to build our future. The Agreement provides some clear and important benefits:

  • clear ownership of Lheidli T’enneh lands
  • defined and protected access to natural resources like timber, oil and gas
  • rights and benefits related to the land, wildlife, and fish throughout the settlement area
  • stable funding to operate a Lheidli T’enneh government and deliver services and programs
  • a Lheidli T’enneh government with authority to make decisions for the benefit of our people

If we do not approve the Final Agreement, we will not have the certainty about lands, governance and revenue that the Final Agreement provides, but that does not mean we cannot look for and pursue other ways of becoming self-governing and asserting our rights as other First Nations have done. For example:

  • We could go to court to prove our title over more of our traditional lands. This path might—or might not—give Lheidli T’enneh title to a larger part of our claimed territory. Going to court would be a process that takes many years and would be very costly. There are no guarantees we would be successful or benefit more from this route.
  • We could negotiate “non-treaty” agreements on individual topics such as land, forestry, or economic development, for example. These agreements are not protected by the Canadian Constitution, but they are easier to change than the Final Agreement. Each agreement would be individually negotiated.

There are other options available. If we choose to look at other options the path is not clear, outcomes are not guaranteed, and the costs are not known.

The Final Agreement provides certainty and guaranteed outcomes that other processes cannot: we know what is in the Final Agreement. It is not a perfect agreement, but it would give us the ability to move forward now to develop our lands, create economic opportunities, make our own laws and generate income to run our government and serve the Lheidli T’enneh people.

Just as we have the right to hunt and fish on other’s lands, the Final Agreement requires us to ensure there is reasonable access for the public on Lheidli T’enneh lands for hiking, canoeing, and other recreational activities. We can, however, regulate and limit hunting and fishing on Lheidli T’enneh Lands.

Leases and licences to other users of Lheidli T’enneh Lands will also remain in force after the Agreement comes into effect.

Almost a quarter of Lheidli T’enneh land will be located within the city of Prince George. A relationship already exists among Lheidli T’enneh, the City of Prince George and the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George. The Lheidli T’enneh will receive taxes from people who live on our land. A separate agreement will guide how development and management of these lands will be harmonized with the City and Regional District.

The Lheidli T’enneh government may choose one or two other areas of provincial Crown land for future economic development. If the governments of Canada and BC agree, Lheidli T'enneh law-making and tax authorities would apply on the lands added.

Lheidli T’enneh will own all resources below the surface of its lands, including any minerals, oil, and gas. The Lheidli T’enneh may also charge others who want to develop or extract these resources.

These rights apply to all Lheidli T’enneh land except for existing mineral claims identified in the appendices of the Final Agreement as well as a parcel of about 55 hectares of private land where we will not own the sub-surface rights or be able to make laws.

Lheidli T’enneh will own all the timber on Lheidli T’enneh lands, except for four parcels in the Shelley area. On these four parcels, British Columbia will own the timber for about 10 years and its harvest will continue to be managed under a separate agreement. Eventually, we will own all forest resources on these four parcels as well.

We are not limited to hunting, fishing and gathering only on the lands we own. We will also keep our rights to hunt, fish and gather throughout our defined traditional 4.5 million hectare harvest area.

Owning land means the Lheidli T’enneh can earn income from that land; we can collect taxes from people who live on that land; we can collect payments from people who set up resource industries on the land; and we can earn money from that land by developing or harvesting the resources ourselves.

These lands also provide us opportunities to finance projects without necessarily taking on a burden of debt.

Land will help the Lheidli T’enneh government put in place economic development initiatives that create jobs and prosperity for our people.

We will own our reserve land plus more than 3,600 hectares of new land in and around Prince George. The new Lheidli T’enneh government will have the power to make laws over all of these lands. While representing a small percentage of our traditional territory, these are valuable parcels of land that include forest, agricultural, residential and commercial land.

The Final Agreement gives us rights to trade and barter our harvest among ourselves and with other Aboriginal people in British Columbia. It does not include the sale of the harvest. Such commercial activities would be possible under the same rules that apply to others, for example, trapping, and outfitting.

Unless the Lheidli T’enneh makes a law that states otherwise, Lheidli T’enneh hunters may harvest wildlife throughout the year.

The Agreement allows for rules to be set regarding animals that need protection. For these animals, the Lheidli T’enneh will negotiate, with the Government of British Columbia, the number of animals we are allowed to harvest. Together we will develop a wildlife harvest plan that will set out the rules. Grizzly bears and mountain caribou are the only species that would require a wildlife harvest plan at this time.

It will be up to the Lheidli T’enneh government whether a license will be needed to hunt.

Our hunting rights will be limited by the need for conservation and by rules to protect people. We may develop our own laws as well. We will also have to follow rules about the use and possession of firearms.

Under the Final Agreement, the Government of Canada will give the Lheidli T’enneh a one-time contribution of $3 million to set up a Lheidli T’enneh Fisheries Fund. The Fund will be used to support fisheries management programs and activities. Another $275,000 will be provided to purchase equipment to help us monitor fish stocks in our region. Lheidli T'enneh will also receive ongoing annual funding like it does now.

The Lheidli T’enneh will prepare a plan every year for our fish harvest and the joint committee will review it and send the plan with recommendations to the other governments.

The Lheidli T’enneh will have the right to make our own rules to manage our fishery, including who can take part, and how the harvest will be shared. The governments of Canada and British Columbia will keep the right to manage and conserve fish, aquatic plants and fish habitat. The Lheidli T’enneh will take part in the decisions, however, through membership on a joint committee that will plan fishing activities while considering environmental protection. This committee will make recommendations to the governments involved.

If the federal government agrees, we can reduce the number of fish we catch for food, social and ceremonial purposes by up to fifty percent and have a matching increase in the number we can sell. If we do that, and there is no commercial fishery in any given season, we could lose our right to those fish for that season.

A Harvest Agreement, separate from our Treaty, gives us licenses to harvest salmon to sell. This Agreement gives us a share of the wealth from the salmon harvest but this will not be a right protected by the Canadian Constitution. In this harvest, we will have to follow the laws of the general commercial fishery.

Under the Final Agreement, the Lheidli T’enneh will have the right to harvest fish and aquatic plants for food, social and ceremonial purposes. Our rights will be defined within a region called the Lheidli T’enneh Fish Area, which covers almost our entire traditional territory.

We will be entitled to take part of the total catch allowed for Upper Fraser sockeye salmon. How many salmon we can harvest will vary each year depending on how many salmon there are. The largest number of salmon we will be able to harvest for food, social and ceremonial purposes each year is 12,300.

We will be able to trade or barter fish among ourselves and with other Aboriginal people.

Indian Act tax exemptions apply to income earned and purchases made on reserve. Any income, investments, and purchases made off-reserve by members are already taxed.

Eight to 12 years after the Final Agreement comes into effect, however, we will lose our Indian Act tax exemption for income earned and purchases made on reserve land. This is because the land will no longer be Indian Reserve land governed under the Indian Act. However, the income and sales taxes Lheidli T’enneh citizens will pay will go to the Lheidli T’enneh government. The taxes collected will help fund Lheidli T’enneh operations, programs and services, and so our tax money will be returned to work for us through our government

The Lheidli T’enneh tax powers will work alongside those of the governments of British Columbia and Canada. In some cases, Canada has agreed to take a smaller tax amount to give the First Nations government room to impose its own sales or personal income taxes, without adding extra burden. The Final Agreement sets the groundwork for a similar arrangement.

In other words, the Final Agreement will not result in double taxation. As employment and business opportunities increase, incomes may also increase and this will, of course, result in changes to tax obligations

Like other governments in Canada, the Lheidli T’enneh government will not have to pay income taxes or GST and provincial transaction taxes. The specifics of intergovernmental taxation and refunds will be set out in a separate tax treatment agreement.

The Lheidli T’enneh government will have the power to collect property tax from anyone who lives on Lheidli T’enneh lands, including lands within the city of Prince George, whether they are band members or not.

The Lheidli T’enneh government will in turn be responsible for providing local services to residents on its lands. Lheidli T'enneh will likely rely on agreements with the City and Regional Districts for these services.

The Lheidli T’enneh and British Columbia governments will work together to designate important cultural sites and geographic features as sites of cultural significance under the Heritage Conservation Act. These two governments will also work together to identify places to be renamed with Carrier names.

The Royal British Columbia Museum will transfer a number of Lheidli T’enneh artifacts from its collection to the Lheidli T’enneh.

If an artifact held by the Canadian Museum of Civilization is determined to belong to the Lheidli T’enneh, the Lheidli T’enneh government and the museum may negotiate its return.

Lheidli T’enneh law-making jurisdiction is set out in the Final Agreement. In some areas Lheidli T’enneh laws will take priority over federal and provincial laws; in other specified areas, federal and provincial laws will have priority if Lheidli T’enneh laws are in conflict. In most matters Lheidli T’enneh will make laws independently, but the Lheidli T’enneh government will need to give at least six months’ written notice before it makes any law about adoption, child protection services, health services, family and social services, child care services, or education. In a limited number of other areas, including criminal law and intellectual property, we will have no law-making abilities.

The first elections for the Lheidli T’enneh government will be held within six months of the date the Final Agreement comes into effect. Until that election happens, the Chief and Councillors of the Lheidli T’enneh Band Council will continue to manage Lheidli T’enneh affairs. After the first election, elections will be held at least every five years.

The Lheidli T’enneh government will include at least one elected non-member representative who lives on Lheidli T’enneh lands. If a non-Lheidli T’enneh member is affected by a Lheidli T’enneh law, they will have the same rights of appeal as Lheidli T’enneh citizens.

The Lheidli T’enneh government will maintain a public registry of Lheidli T’enneh laws for all to see. It will set up a process for appeal or review of decisions. If an issue cannot be resolved within those processes, the appeal may be heard by the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

A Lheidli T’enneh government will represent its people together with the governments of British Columbia and Canada in all matters. It will also represent us in relationships with the governments of other First Nations. The Lheidli T’enneh government may participate on the Board of the Regional District of Fort George just as other municipal governments do. A separate agreement will be reached with local municipal governments to deal with land-use planning, and harmonizing taxes, and costs for services, and environmental protections.

The Lheidli T’enneh Constitution sets out the rules for the government and creates the rights and freedoms of Lheidli T’enneh citizens.

The Constitution will be Lheidli T'enneh's highest law and any other Lheidli T'enneh laws that are inconsistent with it will have no force. The Lheidli T’enneh government will be elected by the members. Our Constitution will result in a government that is democratically and financially accountable to Lheidli T’enneh members. The Constitution also sets out checks and balances to control government conduct, and protect Lheidli T’enneh assets and lands.

When we vote on the Final Agreement, we will also vote on the Constitution. Both of these legal documents need to be approved by our members.

The Lheidli T’enneh government will be able to make laws about things governing the affairs of the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation including matters such as:

  • Lheidli T’enneh citizenship
  • Lheidli T’enneh language and culture
  • Lheidli T’enneh lands
  • public order
  • peace and safety
  • employment
  • traffic and transportation
  • marriages
  • child and family services
  • social and health services
  • child custody
  • adoption
  • education

Today, we are governed by rules set out in the Indian Act and are bound by the rules and policies of other governments.

However, as an Aboriginal people, we have a right to govern ourselves. A key part of the Final Agreement sets the foundation for a Lheidli T’enneh government which will be steered by our own Constitution. Our democratically-elected government will set the rules on our lands and represent us in negotiations with other governments. It will collect taxes and other revenue and from those, programs and services will flow for the Lheidli T’enneh people.

In the Nisga’a Fiscal Financing Agreement, the Nisga’a negotiated to take over management of their non-insured health benefits (which pays for medication, among other things). The Nisga’a took over management themselves, and there were changes to how their services were managed, believing this to be a better deal for their members. Some Nisga’a members were very critical of these changes as some things that were previously covered were no longer covered.

The Lheidli T’enneh fiscal financing agreement does not transfer delivery of the non-insured health benefits to Lheidli T’enneh. These benefits remain under the management of Canada and their delegates such as the First Nation Health Authority.

Therefore, Lheidli T’enneh, will continue to receive the same extended health benefits.

Most programs and services will be funded under fiscal financing agreements that will be negotiated every five years. Under these agreements, the governments of Canada and British Columbia will provide annual funding to enable the Lheidli T’enneh government to deliver these services to its citizens and residents.

Lheidli T’enneh will also help to fund programs and services from the revenues it earns from taxes and other sources of income. Some of these sources of income are described in the fact sheet titled: Taxation. As Lheidli T’enneh’s ability to generate revenue increases, we will have greater flexibility and will fund a larger portion of the cost of delivering programs and services.

Under the terms of the Final Agreement, Lheidli T’enneh will deliver agreed-upon programs and services in a way that is similar to the services currently provided by other governments. The Lheidli T’enneh government would deliver programs and services in the following areas:

  • Social development
  • Education
  • Local programs and services
  • Community health services
  • Public works
  • Lands and resource management
  • Treaty management administration
  • Management of Lheidli T’enneh fisheries

Lheidli T’enneh members will continue to be able to access other programs and services provided by Canada or British Columbia.

Yes. Although the Indian Act will no longer apply, the federal government is still responsible for funding First Nations under treaty, and still keeps track of who is eligible for Indian status. Under treaty, any members of Lheidli T’enneh eligible for Indian status will continue to receive extended health benefits and funding for post-secondary education in the same way as other status Indians. Other revenues may provide opportunities to extend these benefits to non-status members and others. The federal government has never excluded off-reserve members from educational benefits.

The right to enter the United States as Indians is not affected by the treaty. 

Paragraph 1.a the Eligibility and Enrolment chapter states that “Enrolment under this Agreement does not confer or deny rights of entry into Canada, … (or) the right to be registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, or any of the rights or benefits under the Indian Act”.

Paragraph 47.a of the Governance chapter preserves both continued Indian status and entry to Canada: “the conferring of Lheidli T’enneh citizenship does not confer or deny rights of entry into Canada … (or) the right to be registered as an Indian under the Indian Act or any of the rights or benefits under the Indian Act; …”

Therefore, if the Final Agreement is approved, there would be no change to Indian status or travel to the United States. Travel to and from the United States would continue to be governed by federal and United States law. 

If the Final Agreement is enacted, the Indian Act will no longer apply, after the effective date, to Lheidli T’enneh, its lands or members, with the exception of determining Indian status. Instead, constitutionally-protected, self-government provisions of the Final Agreement will enable Lheidli T’enneh to make its own decisions on matters related to the exercise of its treaty rights and the operation of its government. Existing bylaws and laws enacted under the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Land Code will continue.

Health, education exceptions: The Final Agreement has no effect on Indian status and the federal government must still fund First Nations under treaty, and still keep track of who is eligible for Indian status.

  • Under treaty, any members of Lheidli T’enneh eligible for Indian status will continue to receive extended health benefits
  • Funding for post-secondary education will continue for Status Indians. Other revenues may provide opportunities to extend these benefits to non-Status members.

Yes. The Final Agreement says that the Lheidli T’enneh government will be able to make laws on matters connected to the land, resources and other areas of governance that are set out in the Agreement.

Once it is ratified by all three parties, a future date will be picked for it to become effective and the implementation plan that was negotiated in 2007 will be finalized and initiated. The implementation plan identifies each party’s obligations and responsibilities in implementing the treaty.

An implementation committee, made up of a representative from Lheidli T’enneh, Canada, and British Columbia, will be established to oversee the implementation plan.

The federal mandate related to the Final Agreement is expected to expire in October 2016. After this, the Final Agreement will no longer be an option for Lheidli T’enneh.

If Lheidli T’enneh does not ratify the Final Agreement, there are a number of different paths forward to consider. For more information on these options, please refer to the fact sheet titled: Alternative Paths. Lheidli T’enneh will also need to address repayment of the negotiation support loan.

If we accept the Final Agreement through our vote, the governments of BC and Canada would then ratify it. Both will create legislation to give the Final Agreement legal entity on a mutually-agreed date.

The effective date is likely to be set for a few years away to give Lheidli T'enneh time to prepare.

Every member who is on the Enrolment Register (voter’s list) will receive a voting package in the mail. This package will include a mail-in ballot. You can choose to vote in person, or you can choose to mail in your ballot. Because you can mail in your ballot, it will not be necessary to fly members to a poll for voting.

However, a decision on whether or not to bring the members together for a general meeting prior to voting has not yet been made. We will provide plenty of notice if that is to be done.

Approval of the Final Agreement in our coming October 2016 vote will require 50 percent plus one of the enrolled voters to vote in favour of the Agreement.

When we voted on the Final Agreement in 2006, the Community Treaty Council asked for an additional requirement that more than 70 percent of enrolled voters be required to vote for the Agreement for it to be approved. That is not the case this time.

Once all of the votes have been counted, the results will be confirmed by the Chief Electoral Officer. The results of the vote will be published in the Band Office and any other locations determined by the Ratification Committee.

After the polls close, the votes will be counted by the Chief Electoral Officer in the presence of the Ratification Committee (which will be formed to oversee the voting process), as well as any eligible voters who choose to be present. The number of ballots marked YES and NO will be counted and recorded for each question.

Any member who enrols but does not cast a vote will have the effect of voting against the Final Agreement. This is because the number of votes needed to approve the Final Agreement is based on the number of members who enrol. If you support the Final Agreement, not voting will reduce the chance that it will be accepted. Even if you don’t support the Final Agreement, voting is still important to ensure that you’ve exercised your voice and your choice.

The Constitution will pass if approved by 50% + 1 of the members who vote.

You will be asked to vote on two questions:

  1. Do you approve the Lheidli T’enneh Final Agreement initialled October 29, 2006?
  2. Do you approve the Constitution of Lheidli T’enneh?

You will be asked to vote YES or NO on each question.

During the initial enrolment period, the Committee will create a list of enrolled members, which is called the Enrolment Register. This list will be published at least a month before voting.

You can check to see if you are on the Enrolment Register by checking the list, or asking the Eligibility and Enrolment Committee through the Band Office at (250) 562-0847 to get in touch with the Committee.

If you enrolled for the vote on the Final Agreement that was held in 2007, you will need to enrol again and the Enrolment Committee will be sending out application forms and help make the application process easy. In addition, the Enrolment Coordinator will be in attendance at some community meetings to hand out Application forms. You should check the Enrolment Register, once it is published, to be certain your name is on the list.

To enrol, you must complete and return an Enrolment Application form, which is available at the Band Office or at the Economic Development Office, which is located at 215 George Street, Prince George. It will also be available online. Submitted forms will be reviewed by the Enrolment Committee to ensure each applicant is eligible.

You are eligible to enrol if:

  • You are descended from Lheidli T’enneh ancestors on your mother or father’s side,
  • You are listed (or entitled to be listed) as a Lheidli T’enneh band member,
  • You were adopted under Lheidli T’enneh custom, or
  • You are an adopted child or a child of any of the above

In order to vote on the Final Agreement, a Lheidli T’enneh member must be on a list called the Enrolment Register. The Enrolment Register is an official list of Lheidli T'enneh members.

Approval of the Final Agreement requires at least 50% +1 of the enrolled voters to vote for the Agreement. In order to be able to vote on the Agreement, each member who is eligible must first enrol, or register, as a voter. Any member over the age of 16 on the date of the vote is eligible to be enrolled.

The membership of the Lheidli T’enneh voted on the Final Agreement and Constitution in 2007. The Constitution was accepted, but the Final Agreement was defeated.

After the 2007 vote, our Lheidli T’enneh leadership asked a Governance Working Group to listen, learn and understand why the Final Agreement was not accepted. While there were many reasons, many people felt they did not have enough information or knowledge about what is in the Agreement; others felt the time was not right.

The Governance Working Group was also asked to review the Agreement and explore other options that might be available. In the end, the Working Group believed that the Final Agreement provided the best way forward. They recommended, and the membership decided, that before the Final Agreement expires, the Agreement should be put to another vote.

It is very unlikely that the Final Agreement would affect any Specific Claims we may make in the future.

We have sought compensation from the Government of Canada for this past injustice and have attempted to resolve the issue through negotiations as part of the Specific Claims process. Canada has since rejected Lheidli T’enneh’s Specific Claim request but we will continue to pursue this matter in court.

Specific Claims are claims that First Nations make against the Government of Canada. They often deal with past wrongs against First Nations and commonly involve Canada’s obligations under historic treaties or with the way it managed First Nation funds or assets.

No. This is a Specific Claim and it comes under a different government policy set up to deal with past wrongs by Canada related to Indian Reserves. There is nothing in the Final Agreement that will in any way undermine our claim against Canada. In fact, the Final Agreement specifically states that it will not affect Lheidli T’enneh’s Fort George IR#1 claim.

Fort George IR#1 was a Reserve that included a Lheidli T’enneh village site. Located at the confluence of the Nechako and Fraser Rivers, our village was well-placed and was known for its prosperous fishing.

The property was transferred on Nov. 18, 1911 and Lheidli T’enneh residing there had seven months to leave. Part of the land was used by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway to build rail lines and a station. Other parts were resold as lots by the company at great profit. These Reserve lands, totalling almost 1,400 acres from which the city of Prince George grew, were worth far more than what Lheidli T’enneh were paid for them.

Although not all agreed with the decision to sell, our people were relocated by the government and any who remained saw their homes destroyed by fire, forcing them to move.

Today, a cemetery is all that remains of our settlement.

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