The Lake Babine Nation has never ceded their territory to any government of European root, and the Crown has agreed to at least a 20,000-hectare reparation on that theme.
On a Land Transfer Agreement document dated Jan. 16, 2023, the Province of British Columbia and the Lake Babine Nation (LBN) established that LBN was the official new owner of the sizeable land parcel.
The announcement was made in joint fashion by LBN chief Murphy Abraham and Murray Rankin, B.C.’s minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“This is just the beginning,” said Abraham. “Our ancestors fought hard to protect our territory, and the land transfer agreement is the first step in bringing these lands back to Lake Babine control and decision-making. This is a historic moment for us, and I look forward to expanding our land base as we negotiate additional parcels.”
“The signing of the Lake Babine Lands Transfer Agreement is a significant step toward the implementation of Lake Babine Nation’s Aboriginal title – a key objective of the historic Foundation Agreement,” said Rankin. “Through the Foundation Agreement we are moving into a new relationship that fosters transformative change toward self-government, makes a real difference on the ground for Lake Babine Nation members and brings stability and prosperity to everyone in the region.”
The Foundation Agreement is a document signed in 2020 between B.C., LBN and the Government of Canada.
“It is a roadmap for reconciliation, providing a step-by-step guide for how the Nation and the provincial and federal governments will work together in a phased approach to implement Lake Babine self-governance, title and other rights, boost economic development, collaborate on major land and resource decisions, and promote community health and well-being,” said the two sides jointly.
The lands in this transfer include parcels of waterfront and prime forestry lands.
According to Rankin, the transfer is the third largest in the history of B.C.
Abraham said it amounted to “only a portion of lands that LBN is pursuing through reconciliation talks.” He added that to transfer the land, “each parcel must be surveyed on foot which can make the process lengthy but is very important for LBN due diligence.”
While the Nation acknowledged that the process is time consuming, “LBN is urging the province to move as quickly as possible in completing the land transfers.”
Key facts about the Foundation Agreement and Land Transfers
• The estimated value of the initial land transfers is $150-million.
• Lake Babine chose the initial land transfers primarily for their forestry value, as well as to secure more lands along the shore of Babine Lake, key to their traditional communities.
• Under the Foundation Agreement, Lake Babine will identify the lands it wants back through an evidence- and community-driven process. That internal work has not yet started.
• Lake Babine will acquire the Initial Land Transfer parcels as “fee simple” or private lands. The Foundation Agreement states that LBN and the Province will work to implement Lake Babine’s Aboriginal title, including through a new land designation to replace “fee simple” status (section 6.8).