James says party decided to support Tsawwassen agreement months ago



Jared Ferrie/Metro Vancouver


Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird, left, and Premier Gordon Campbell leave the band’s administrative offices yesterday after speaking to reporters about a treaty ratified on Wednesday.


After almost 15 years of negotiations, the Tsawwassen First Nation has ratified a treaty with the federal and provincial governments — a historic event that had the added consequence of backing B.C.’s official opposition into a political corner.

In the first agreement reached through the $1-billion B.C. Treaty Process, band members voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favour of an agreement that includes cash, land and fishing rights.

“We are now on a new path with the Tsawwassen First Nation,” said Premier Gordon Campbell yesterday while visiting the reserve, which is sandwiched between Delta Port and the highway leading to the B.C. Ferries terminal.

After remaining conspicuously silent on the issue, NDP Leader Carole James announced yesterday that her party will endorse the treaty when it goes to the legislature this fall.

She explained that the NDP had not previously voiced support, because it did not want to influence the ratification process.

But she said the party supports the Huu-ay-aht treaty on Vancouver Island, which will be voted on tomorrow. Moments later she said she regretted making the remark.

James admitted the party made its decision to support the Tsawwassen treaty in secret months ago, despite concern about the removal of 209 hectares from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

In a Monday interview with Metro, NDP Aboriginal Relations Critic Scott Fraser promised a “vigorous debate” in the legislature if the treaty was ratified.

Despite the controversy, elder Ruth Adams was beaming as she awaited yesterday’s appearance by Campbell and Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird. “What a day, what a day,” she repeated under her breath.

Farmland’s fate?

  • Tsawwassen Chief Kim Baird said yesterday that the formerly protected farmland could be converted to industrial use by expanding Delta Port.