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69 First Nations Garry Merkel The Columbia River is immense and deeply engrained in the minds, hearts, souls, and livelihoods of countless historic and contemporary cultures.The earliest accounts of these relationships arise from the indigenous peoples, generically referred to as Native Americans or tribes in the United States or First Nations or aboriginal in Canada. The Columbia River Treaty was one in a string of events on the Columbia River that completely re-shaped the contemporary social framework Most Columbia River tribes and First Nations were deeply impacted by the treaty by loss of salmon and losses or significant changes in resident fish populations,hunting areas, gathering areas, and spiritual sites. In many situations the treaty completely and negatively re-shaped these societies and communities. When the treaty was first established the Canadian crown had few known legal obligations to First Nations. First Nations were generally not aware of the process and had no influence on the decision-making process. Since that time Canadian courts have (a) recognized that aboriginal rights exist (a constitutionally protected priority right to exclusively use and occupy the land in a manner consistent with communal practises); (b) established that only the crown can infringe on aboriginal rights but the infringement has to be shown justifiable; (c) established very high consultation standards for potential infringements on aboriginal rights; and (d) required the crown to adequately accommodate any justifiable impacts to aboriginal rights. Canada and British Columbia will both have to meet these requirements with Columbia River First Nations with respect to any discussions regarding the treaty. Canadian governments and First Nations are still working out ways to deal with these emerging legal responsibilities. However, based on existing practice, we can expect that a distinct process will be established between Canadian governments and Columbia River First Nations for any treaty discussions that will almost certainly include: (a) a government to government orientation;(b) resources to ensure informed First Nations involvement; (c) significant First Nations influence on the local outcomes of the discussions; and (d) some type of accommodation for First Nations. All of these elements point towards a significant First Nations role in treaty discussions on the Canadian side—not necessarily a veto position but almost certainly an opportunity to have a much more significant First Nations role now and into the future of the Columbia River Treaty. ...


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