The Heiltsuk Nation isn’t waiting for the provincial and federal governments to draft a reconciliation agreement.
The Heiltsuk have written and signed its own declaration, setting out what it says is a new mandate for a relationship within Canada.
Hereditary Chief Harvey Humchitt says the First Nation has been collaborating with industry and senior governments on planning and economic opportunities, but without much progress on resource management decisions within its territories.
Chief Marilyn Slett says existing agreements will be honoured but the new approach will build a government-to-government relationship between the Heiltsuk, B.C., and Canada.
The First Nation relies on the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2014 Tsilhqot’in decision, that it says found a declaration of aboriginal title could be obtained through a negotiated agreement, or by court declaration.
Slett says she hopes their approach may inspire other First Nations to think outside the box, approach reconciliation on their own terms based on their own traditions and laws.
Heiltsuk hereditary chiefs and elected leaders say as the sovereign authority over more than 35,000 square kilometres of the central coast, the First Nation has the right to control, manage and benefit from territorial resources.