Premier Gordon Campbell is trying to use the proposed British Columbia Recognition and Reconciliation Act to overcome the economic uncertainty that B.C. has been experiencing since the Supreme Court of Canada recognized aboriginal title. Aboriginal title is an exclusive property right of indigenous peoples. This is the Achilles’ heel of B.C., as the provincially created property rights, like fee simple or forestry tenures and mining leases, are put in question because they fail to take into account aboriginal title.
Aboriginal title could even operate to oust provincial control over lands and resources, so what the province is really seeking through the proposed act is recognition of Crown title by indigenous peoples.
The much advertised recognition of aboriginal title is contingent upon recognition of provincial Crown title in return. This position has historically been rejected by indigenous peoples insisting that their relationship is with the federal Crown and not with lower levels of government. The Gordon Campbell strategy is to plug the “First Nations leadership council”—consisting of the executives of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit, and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs—into existing provincial government business schemes. The result will be benefit-sharing agreements under existing provincial resource law. This will undermine aboriginal title and indigenous efforts to protect the environment from increased resource exploitation.