New treaty a sham
By BILL TIELEMAN
One does not sell the land people walk on.
- Crazy Horse, Lakota warrior, 1875
The tentative treaty between the Tsawwassen First Nation and the provincial and federal governments must be rejected.
It is totally unacceptable that the treaty terms would take 207 hectares of valuable farmland out of the Agricultural Land Reserve and turn it over to the Roberts Bank port terminal for container shipping expansion. And a further 278 hectares of farmland could also be turned into an industrial wasteland.
One can only hope that the Tsawwassen First Nation members themselves will vote against this agreement for that reason, even though it is worth well over $120 million.
But if not, it is up to the British Columbia Legislature to vote to send the treaty back for renegotiation.
Unfortunately, what should be a positive development in B.C.'s long history of neglect of rightful aboriginal land claims is instead a looming disaster that would both destroy precious farmland and discourage future treaty settlements.
The reason is clear - the treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation is wrongly being used by the provincial and federal governments to remove farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve that could never be taken out otherwise.
And the enormous increase in land value that comes from paving it over to expand the port is being used to pay for the deal.
This isn't about helping aboriginal people up - it's about helping big corporations out. It's about using a treaty to do the unthinkable - turn productive farmland into an asphalt parking lot for containers shipped from China.
That's just wrong.
Fortunately some Tsawwassen First Nation members are expressing opposition.
"I want to see some guidelines. I don't want to see containers stacked up. It will be a real eyesore," TFN member Bertha Williams told the Delta Optimist last month.
No one should blame the Tsawwassen First Nation for doing the best it can to improve its members' circumstances.
But the B.C. Liberal government is another matter.
Premier Gordon Campbell can easily give the Tsawwassen First Nation the significant financial compensation it deserves from the government' $2-billion surplus this year.
Instead his government is using the Tsawwassen First Nation treaty as a way to pull farmland out of the Agricultural Land Reserve and to save money while doing so.
The Dave Barrett NDP government introduced the ALR in 1973 to preserve B.C.'s rapidly disappearing farmland from both residential and industrial development.
Today's NDP MLAs need to continue that tradition by fighting to preserve the ALR while continuing to push for fair treaties for First Nations. Liberal MLAs should do the same.