(This article is part of a series on Understanding Economic Reconciliation Agreements. Click here to start over at the beginning.)
Economic reconciliation agreements are the result of the “New Relationship” between First Nations and B.C. They are essentially government-to-government economic development framework agreements negotiated in the context of specific economic development projects. They are specific, incremental, and future-focused. The province sees them as a way to address the socio-economic gap between Indigenous and settler peoples and create economic certainty without having to address underlying title and rights issues (as in the treaty process).To date, 15 economic reconciliation agreements have been negotiated covering 36 First Nations (you can see the summary and find links to them on the BC Government website). They have various titles, including “framework agreement” and “protocol agreement” and may be interim or simply a letter of understanding. Most of these agreements have been completed in the last 2 years, although a small number date back farther.
Features of Economic Reconciliation Agreements
Although each agreement is unique, they share many common features. These include:
- Recognition by the Crown of Aboriginal title and rights in the First Nation’s territory;
- A commitment by both parties to negotiate in good faith on a nation-to-nation basis;
- Identification of subjects to be included in the negotiations;
- Aims and goals;
- An implementation plan; and
- Resourcing of the reconciliation process.
Usually, but not always, there is at least one resource-based agreement associated with the economic reconciliation agreement and this is generally a forestry revenue-sharing agreement. Some of the agreements associated with the economic development agreements relate to social or environmental matters, addressing the “socio” aspect of the Nation’s socio-economic situation.
Are they really the way forward?
The BC government touts economic development agreements as the way to begin establishing a relationship with First Nations that can lead to ongoing constructive nation-to-nation negotiations. On the other hand, others see these agreements as “fancy forestry impact benefit agreements” and a way for the Province to deflect criticism on the lack of progress in dealing with the questions of Aboriginal title and rights.
What do you think?
Are economic reconciliation agreements a constructive way forward? Or are they a distraction from dealing with the underlying issue of Aboriginal title and rights?
Does your nation have such an agreement? Is it working? Are there room for improvements?
Add your voice to the dialogue in the comments below or on your preferred social media platform.