BC Premier will meet with chiefs today amid tensions over resource projects

APTN National News 

VANCOUVER — British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is expected to address First Nations leaders at the second annual all-chiefs meetings in Vancouver Thursday.

Clark will address the gathering amid simmering tensions over issues of sovereignty, land rights, and resource development.

About 500 Aboriginal leaders are meeting with Clark and members of her cabinet, expecting to sign a joint government-First Nations working agreement.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B-C Indian Chiefs said they’re giving the government a one-year deadline to negotiate a reconciliation deal.

The meeting is taking place in what’s described as a more polite and relaxed atmosphere than the tensions which characterized last year’s inaugural gathering.

But Phillip said despite the improved feeling in the room, there is mounting frustration among First Nations over what he calls the slow pace of change following the historic Tsilhqot’in land title decision last year.

The high court decision granted Aboriginal title to lands in traditional Tsilhqot’in territory in B.C.’s central interior, a ruling that now permeates all government and First Nations relations, including potentially lucrative and environmentally-sensitive resource projects.

Clark has said that ignoring the Supreme Court decision put B.C.’s future in peril and she wants to use the ruling to work together with First Nations.

The B.C. government is acknowledging that negotiations are moving slowly.

Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad said a handful of First Nations have negotiated treaties but the parties need to find a way to come to agreements in a much more expedited manner.

APTN National News is attending today’s gathering and will have a full report on this evening’s television newscast.

–with files from The Canadian Press