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Canada and B.C. make final pitch for In-SHUCK-ch treaty

Final map removes disputed territory

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It's up to the people now.

The Governments of Canada and British Columbia have officially made their final pitches for an In-SHUCK-ch treaty, bringing an end to negotiations that have dragged on for 17 years.

The Final Closing Elements of the treaty, obtained by Pique last week, offer a total 16,356 hectares of land to the In-SHUCK-ch Nation including 15,016 hectares of Crown land and 1,284 hectares of existing reserve lands that are already registered to the Douglas, Skatin and Samahquam First Nations.

They also offer a capital transfer of $34.697 million - about a third of which will pay down federal debt that the In-SHUCK-ch took on to participate in negotiations.

Negotiators for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, as well as the federal and provincial governments, will now likely sign a final agreement and hand it off to the participating First Nations for consideration and possible ratification - something that will not happen until October or November, according to In-SHUCK-ch negotiator Gerard Peters.

There are 931 people divided between all three First Nations, but to vote on the treaty members must enroll as In-SHUCK-ch citizens.

The land being offered to In-SHUCK-ch extends from the southern end of Lillooet Lake to the north end of Harrison Lake, with several detached pieces in between. In addition to the Douglas, Samahquam and Skatin reserves it cedes federal and Crown land to the First Nations that they can develop without seeking permission from the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.

"The treaty removes any reference to the Indian Act," Peters said. "We won't be Indians any longer, so there won't be any Indian bands."

Under section 18 of the Indian Act, the Crown holds reserve lands for the use and benefit of First Nation bands. The Governor-in-Council, in this case the Governor General acting on the advice of the federal cabinet, can determine any purpose for which reserve lands are to be used for a band's benefit.

The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs can also authorize the use of reserve lands for the purpose of Indian schools, burial grounds, health projects or any other project for the general welfare of the band, according to the Act.

Under treaty, the In-SHUCK-ch won't have to go to the minister for those purposes anymore. The In-SHUCK-ch will have their own government, the ability to make their own laws and decide what to do with their land as they please.

"Indians don't own their Indian reserves," Peters said in an interview. "If they want to release a portion of it or log it for commercial purposes, they've got to get the approval of the Government of Canada.

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