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Empowered Co-management: Towards Power-Sharing and Indigenous Rights in Clayoquot Sound, BC

Goetze, Tara C.






Finally, the veto provision of the IMA profoundly augments the level of practical control the Nuu-chah-nulth may exercise over the management of resources on their traditional territories. It effectively devolves a measure of state authority to the local level in a manner that advances [Nuu]-chah-nulth aspirations for power-sharing, partnership-oriented arrangements with the Canadian governments. This is empowered co-management. It is so termed as it exceeds the advisory powers co-management regimes typically allow indigenous participants to practice. This is not to imply that such co-management "gives power" to "powerless" Aboriginal co-managers. Rather, it is empowering in that it facilitates the exercise of power historically held by Aboriginal peoples in managing their resources as autonomous nations. As described by [Stephen Charleson], for Nuu-chah-nulth, this means that the CRB provides them with unprecedented leverage in the decision-making process: "Before [the CRB] a lot of the things that we were trying to stop weren't slowed down. All we could do was beg and plead and yell and scream, and there was no action. Now, with this IMA...we have something in our back pockets that the Province has signed, and...whether they like it or not, they have to listen to us, some things that they weren't prepared to do before." [Larry Baird] adds that the CRB "gives recognition and gives us a seat at many tables where we're being discussed, as opposed to, "Well, we think this is good for them." I never did like that. I would no more profess to know what is good for you and I wouldn't make that determination. And I wouldn't expect you to accept anything like that." In sum, empowered co-management both recognizes Aboriginal authority over traditional territories and allows for its effective exercise in practice. Furthermore, Nuu-chah-nulth co-managers and negotiators point to the fact that, one of the CRB's stated objectives is the consideration of "options for treaty settlement for the First Nations," including the "expansion of the land and resource base for First Nations" and the protection of "Aboriginal uses of resources" in Clayoquot Sound. Such considerations speak to Nuu-chah-nulth demands for the recognition of their traditional property rights. Finally, the ability to veto decisions relating to their land and resource interests via the double majority clause is considered, as noted above, a powerful form of rights protection, and an assertion of the right to decision-making authority over traditional territories and resources. This, in turn, addresses Nuu-chah-nulth demands for self-determination within the Canadian state. Cliff Atleo, an Ahousaht negotiator, insists that the IMA plays an important role concerning Nuu-chah-nulth rights: "[The IMA] wasn't intended to be a panacea for Aboriginal rights definition as it says right up front. [That] doesn't diminish the importance, the level of importance of some of those [rights] that it has touched, because it's a start, and lays some of the foundations for doing that in the treaty." This point is further clarified when Nuu-chah-nulth make a connection between the recognition, protection and exercising of their rights and the exercise of power over their territories and resource activities that participation on the CRB makes possible. [Francis Frank] explained: "Regarding [Nuu-chah-nulth] rights with respect to resources...the Agreement provides, through our involvement in the management board, the ability to protect resources that are under negotiation at the treaty table." Like other Nuu-chah-nulth, Frank connects this "protection" of resource-based rights to CRB membership, which allows Nuu-chah-nulth participants to "have a direct say over all our traditional territories." He went on to describe how this "direct say" mechanism of the CRB results from a combination of "equal representation, the co-chair, and veto power." Together these provide a marked increase in the level of "influence" accorded Nuu-chah-nulth vis-à-vis the provincial government, and represent the "greatest significance" of the IMA.

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