Speaking Notes for Minister Strahl at a ceremony to celebrate the Coming Into Force of the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement

by NationTalk on April 14, 20091814 Views

Speaking Notes for Honourable Chuck Strahl, PC, MP Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-status Indians

This Is Your Day

Delta, British Columbia
April 3, 2009

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Good morning, elders, Chief Baird, Premier Campbell, Minister de Jong, honoured guests, citizens of the Tsawwassen First Nation, ladies and gentlemen.As federal Minister of Indian Affairs, as a proud resident of BC, I’m truly honoured to join you today in the traditional meeting place of the Tsawwassen people to celebrate the coming into force of the Tsawwassen First Nation Treaty.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Chief Baird, members of the Tsawwassen First Nation Band Council and all members of the community for welcoming me and my colleagues so graciously and generously to your traditional territory. I want to salute Chief Baird. I believe we can all agree that we would not be here today celebrating this historic occasion if it weren’t for your dynamic, young leader.

At the same time, I want to say how happy I am to see so many men, women and young people from the community here in this wonderful longhouse. There is no place I would rather be than right here with you on this very special day.

The celebration here this morning grew from another idea. I remember having breakfast with Chief Baird at the Empress Hotel in Victoria shortly after the official signing of the final agreement. That was about a year and a half ago. And among many other things, we talked about the most appropriate way to celebrate this day—the day the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement would come into force. In particular, we discussed the consensus that seemed to be emerging about holding an event in Ottawa and flying in several leaders from the provincial government and from First Nation communities in the region.

But the more we talked about that kind of gathering, the more we realized it wouldn’t be right. For today is not a day to focus on the politicians or on the negotiators or even on the leaders of Tsawwassen First Nation.

This is a day for the men and women and young people of Tsawwassen First Nation. This is your day. This is your day to celebrate the coming into force of the first Treaty completed under the BC Treaty Process and the first treaty for a major urban centre in this great country. This is your day to celebrate your community taking its rightful place in the life and the future of this region. This is your day to celebrate the start of an exciting new era in the long, proud history of the Tsawwassen First Nation.

And as I look out – at all the people who have gathered here – I realize how perfectly right it is for us to be here this morning. This event should not have been and could not have been held in any other place than right here—in your longhouse, on your land, in your home. This is indeed your day. Congratulations to you all.

And while your enthusiastic participation has made this an appropriate and truly memorable celebration, your presence in this building also helps me—and helps everyone across the country—appreciate several important truths. Your presence here tells me you recognize how important the Treaty is to you and your community. Your presence here tells me you recognize how important it is for you to gain control of your lands and waters; how important it is for you to be able to exercise authority over those lands and in those waters—in your own way, on your own terms; how important it is for you to be an equal partner in determining how the region will grow and develop; how important it is for all of us to put an end to the disputes of the past so that you can realize promising futures not only for yourselves but, perhaps more importantly, for the young people in your community.

In fact, you have already taken the terms of the Treaty and used them to help guide yourselves toward those promising futures. You have developed laws to govern health care, education, taxation, fishing and local governance. This is an impressive list and I understand that the quality of your draft laws is exceptional.

The secret of your success in lawmaking is really no secret at all. For countless generations, the Tsawwassen people have been governing themselves with effective laws inspired by time-honoured traditions: making sure the voice of the community can be heard, making sure all can see how decisions are made, and making sure the wisdom and experience of elders is respected and heeded.

I’m proud to see that these traditions are alive and well in British Columbia, and that the landmark Treaty we are celebrating today has been accomplished in my home province. In fact, through the BC treaty process, this province is showing others throughout the country what great strides we can take when we all sit down together in the spirit of equality, mutual respect and trust… when we all work together to resolve our differences… when we all join together as partners to build healthy, prosperous, culturally vibrant and sustainable First Nation communities.

I want to take this opportunity to let everyone know that this Conservative Government stands firmly behind the BC treaty process. I would also like to thank Premier Campbell for his steadfast commitment to the process, and commend Chief Commissioner Sophie Pierre and her colleagues at the BC Treaty Commission for their ongoing efforts. And I want to acknowledge the vital contributions of the negotiating teams led by Chief Federal Negotiator Tim Koepke, Chief Provincial Negotiator Bronwen Beedle and Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Negotiator Chief Kim Baird.

Interestingly enough, the major milestones on the road to this day correspond with those of Chief Baird and her family. Chief Baird’s first child, Amy was born in September 2003, shortly after the initialling of the Tsawwassen AIP (July 9, 2003). When my predecessor, Jim Prentice, was here in December 2006 to celebrate the initialling of the final agreement, Chief Baird was within days of giving birth to her second child, Sophia.

And now, as we celebrate the coming into force of the final agreement, Chief Baird will very soon expand her family a little more. Where does she find the time??!!

I believe the progress of the final agreement and the growth of Chief Baird’s family help show us the true value of what we’re doing. Both the young people in this community and the Treaty represent the future of the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Indeed, it is the young men and women of this community who are going to be in the best position to take full advantage of this Treaty. So let me say one more thing in closing— to the young people gathered here today. More than anyone else in this historic longhouse, this is your day. Enjoy it. Remember it. Stand ready to seize the opportunities that the Treaty opens up to you and your community. Pursue your goals with pride and optimism. And take your rightful place in the future of this region, this province and our wonderful country, Canada.

Congratulations to you all – and thank you.

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