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Province recognizes Haida Nation self-governance with legislation

Haida Nation Recognition Act announced in ceremony at legislature May 9
Laanas Tamara Davidson of the Haida Recognition Title Team hugs Jisgang Nika Collison after the historic passing of the Haida Nation Recognition Act on May 9. (Photo: Supplied)

The B.C. provincial government officially recognized the Haida Nation’s inherent right of governance on May 9 at a historic ceremony in the legislature.

The induction of new legislation, titled the Haida Nation Recognition Act, is the latest in a number of mutual commitments. Together, the Haida Nation, B.C. and Canada have been working toward reconciliation for more than two decades, a press release stated.

Murray Rankin, B.C. Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation said the legislation was passed every step of the way in partnership with Haida Nation.

“It’s something that I think will help us forge a better path together in the future because this legislation recognizes within provincial laws that the Haida Nation has inherent rights of governance and self-determination. The Council of the Haida Nation is the government of Haida Nation,” he said.

“The new legislation represents a significant step toward reconciliation, or Gud ad T’alang HlG̲ang.gulx̲a Tll Yahda • Tll yá’adee G̱ii gud ahl t’álang hlG̱ángulaang (“People working together to make it right”), the media statement reads.

Gaagawiis Jason Alsop, president of the Haida Nation and a delegation travelled to Victoria to address members of the legislative assembly to witness the passing of legislation and explain what the bill means to the Haida people.

“This act begins to right that wrong and serves to lay a proper foundation for negotiations of recognition of Haida title. Today, we are finally able to acknowledge each other and to work, government-to-government, with respect and integrity. The Haida Nation welcomes and celebrates this legislation,” he said.

In 2021, the Haida Nation, B.C. and Canada entered into the GayG̱ahlda “Changing Tide” framework to advance collective work on reconciliation. GayG̱ahlda is the framework for the parties to negotiate further agreements leading to Crown recognition of Haida governance and Haida title on Haida Gwaii.

Jennifer Rice, MLA for the North Coast, said she is proud that the council of the Haida Nation and the province are working “shoulder-to-shoulder” to achieve lasting reconciliation.

“This legislation is a significant and important step needed to enact the GayG̱ahlda agreement, recognizing the self-determination of the Haida Nation,” she said.

Gaagawiis said one of the barriers in reconciling the differences with B.C. and Canada has been the lack of formal recognition of the Council of the Haida Nation as the governing body of the Haida Nation and their inherent title and rights in Haida Gwaii.

Rankin said the legislation is long overdue.

“It’s a result of a progressive approach to reconciliation. I think it shows the strength of our relationship and our ability to get things done together in a good way,” the Minister said.

“As a first step in this work, the parties have negotiated a tripartite Haida Nation recognition agreement, in which B.C. and Canada agree to legislate recognition of the inherent rights of governance and self-determination of the Haida Nation and the Council of the Haida Nation as its government. The new legislation fulfils that commitment for the Province.

Collectively, reconciliation agreements and supporting legislation provide a foundation for further steps to be taken together, government to government, to fulfil responsibilities and create a path for a better future together,” the press release states.

The Council of the Haida Nation was formed in 1974 and the Haida Nation constitution was enacted in 2003, Rankin explained.

“This is about the stability of a governance system that predates that of course, but as reflected most recently in those significant things. That is why the province of British Columbia and soon the Government of Canada will recognize the reality that the Haida has known for generations and generations and generations,” the minister said.

“This law is about changing the entire legal framework of the Crown and recognizing what the Haida Nation have long recognized.”

K-J Millar | Editor and Multimedia Journalist
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North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice, Gaagwiis Jason Alsop and Murray Rankin B.C. Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation stand together in the Legislature on May 9 after the historic passing of the new legislation, the Haida Recognition Act. (Photo: supplied)