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MPs expedite long-awaited Maa-Nulth agreement

VANCOUVER - The House of Commons today passed legislation to ratify a final agreement with the Maa-Nulth First Nations of Vancouver Island.

Representatives of the member First Nations were in Ottawa to witness the occasion.

Yesterday, all federal parties agreed to fast-track the bill, passing it without debate after a member of each party made a statement this morning.

However, ratification has not been without delays: the First Nations and the British Columbia legislature ratified the agreement in November 2007.

The Maa-Nulth are a group of five first nations from the west coast of Vancouver Island, who joined together to negotiate treaty and land claims: the Huu-ay-aht First Nations, the Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h First Nations, the Toquaht Nation, the Uchucklesaht Tribe and the Ucluelet First Nation.

The delay in ratifying the agreement was caused by a lawsuit, in which the Huu-ay-aht First Nations were taking part, against the federal government over aboriginal fishing rights.

In March, the Huu-ay-aht voted to withdraw from that lawsuit, and to sign the Maa-Nulth treaty after the last submissions in the case were made in March.

The Maa-Nulth Final Agreement was signed by all parties on April 9. The same day, the provincial government signed a memorandum of understanding to begin transferring Crown land to the Maa-Nulth Nations.

The ratification legislation must now be passed by the Senate, after which a date will be set for the agreement to come into force.

Amelia Bellamy-Royds reports for The Tyee.

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