Resolve Nisga’a talks deadlock, archbishop says

TORONTO, July 18, 1995 — The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada is urging Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and British Columbia Premier Michael Harcourt to break the impasse in the Nisga’a Treaty negotiations.

“The time has come for the exercise of political will. Otherwise the negotiations will end up being held hostage to short-term political interests,” said Archbishop Michael Peers.

“I call upon the Prime Minister and the Premier to become personally involved in this. They must not allow these talks to perish. We need our political leaders to exercise the statesmanship which they have previously demonstrated. We cannot allow First Nations to believe that, having negotiated in good faith, their treaties will be sacrificed to federal-provinical bickering.”

Last week talks between the federal and provincial negotiators and the Nisga’a Tribal Council from north western British Columbia broke down when the two governments could not resolve a disagreement about a funding formula. The breakdown occurred on the very day that the British Columbia government had set as an extended deadline for all sides to announce the terms and progress of negotiations.

“The Nisga’a have conducted themselves at the bargaining table in a patient and responsible manner. It is not responsible for governments to walk away now because they cannot agree between themselves,” said Archbishop Peers. “The time is now, for the sake of future generations, to say we can and will solve these differences. Otherwise it will seem desperate for many First Nations people, and they may very well come to believe once again that ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ It will be tragic if that becomes the only outcome of these negotiations.”

The Anglican Church of Canada, at the meeting of 34th General Synod held in Ottawa in June, expressed its will about these negotiations in a resolution that urges both the government of Canada and British Columbia “to bring forward proposals that wil provide a land and resource base sufficient to assure self determination for the Nisga’a people … and to settle all outstanding native land claims in a just and expedient manner.”

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