A major step towards ending the ongoing dispute between the Coast Tsimshian, comprised of the Metlakatla and Lax Kw’alaams First Nations, and the Federal Government around the development of the Fairview container terminal took place last week with the announcement of a framework agreement between the two parties.
The agreement includes areas such as revenue sharing, land, economic opportunities, governance, jobs and training. According to International Trade Minister David Emerson it was the work of Robert Plecas, a liaison appointed by the government to seek a resolution to the dispute and who tabled his report to government at the beginning of the month that made the announcement possible.
“I indicated to the leadership that what was in that report was something that I thought was supportable. We will be taking it in for federal cabinet approval in the coming weeks, but they wanted some assurances that we were moving in that direction,” he said during an interview at the September 12 grand opening of the container terminal.
“This is not a land claims settlement and it is not the only thing that needs to be done to get First Nations people involved. We need to make sure that all the stakeholders are aware and are doing something substantive to make sure that job opportunities and other opportunities are available to First Nations.”
And while he noted that this was not a legally binding agreement but was a substantial step forward, Metlakatla Chief Harold Leighton noted that there is still more work to be done.
“The information I have is that the framework submission will be going to cabinet in approximately 30 days, and we gave ourselves a time frame of three months to go from a framework agreement to a signed agreement. So we are looking at a December 31 deadline to complete the final negotiations on an agreement,” he said.
“This gives us, at least in Metlakatla, the comfort to move forward.”