Today, he said, poverty still rules on many B.C. reserves despite a booming economy, disputed land and resources are still being taken away, and half the children in government care are aboriginal.
Judith Sayers, chief of the Hupacasath First Nation on Vancouver Island, sees opportunity in the New Relationship to bring change to her community. Her band has launched a variety of businesses, upgraded reserve housing, taken on joint management of parks using resources that have become available as a result of the Premier's changed way of thinking.
"In my community, the New Relationship is alive and well," she said. "I think there are huge opportunities now to move forward."
But she said there are problems that need the Premier's attention. "I do see a lot of things that need to be fixed, and need to be fixed fast. It's slow and onerous. The mandate has to go out to every single bureaucrat."
While the critics of the government emphasized they are not attacking the Tsawwassen treaty, there is an underlying current of disapproval. It's fine if that's what the Tsawwassen want, a number of chiefs remarked, but don't use that deal as a template for others.
Chief Baird, who acknowledged she finds some parts of the Tsawwassen treaty "offensive," shares some of their concerns. She said progress is slow and the Premier's political will hasn't filtered down to the bureaucratic level.
But she is disappointed that some chiefs will protest on the day she is in Victoria to open debate on her treaty.
"I had hoped that other people's issues wouldn't get clouded in with Tsawwassen's achievements. It's unfortunate timing but I won't take it personally," she said. "This day is bigger than that."
TREATY MAKING IN B.C. BY THE NUMBERS
Aboriginal treaty organizations participating in the B.C. treaty process. (Because some negotiate at a common table, there are 48 sets of negotiations.)
Organizations that are in preliminary stages of negotiations.
Groups in agreement-in-principle negotiations.
Groups in final negotiations: The In-SHUCK-ch Nation, Lheidli T'enneh Band, Sliammon Indian Band, Yekooche Nation and Yale First Nation have signed agreements in principle (AiPs) - the blueprint for a final treaty.
Groups have signed agreements that haven't been ratified: Tsawwassen First Nation and Maa-nulth First Nations.
The Nisga'a Lisims Government is the only tribal group to have achieved a modern-day treaty, although it was negotiated outside of the current B.C. treaty process.
The proportion of aboriginal people in B.C. who are represented at the table in the treaty process.
Source: B.C. Treaty Commission
DOES THE SYSTEM WORK?
While a number of prominent aboriginal leaders have recently criticized the B.C. government for failing to deliver concrete results with its two-year-old "New Relationship" accord, the province says the pact, signed with native leaders in May, 2005, has led to a number of improvements for aboriginal people:
Land and Resource Management Plans for the central and north coast are signed between the provincial government, aboriginal communities, environmental groups and other stakeholders. The joint management plans cover a huge swath of land, 6.4 million hectares, including the 103,000 hectare Kitasoo Spirit Bear Conservancy.
The First Nations Health Plan is launched to close the health gap between aboriginal people and the rest of the B.C. population.
2006 - The Education Jurisdiction Agreement is signed between Canada, B.C. and the First Nations Education Steering Committee, recognizing the right of aboriginal communities to make decisions about the education of their children.
2007 A historic reconciliation settlement is signed between B.C., Ottawa, the Songhees First Nation and the Esquimalt First Nation, relating to a parcel of land in downtown Victoria including the 110-year-old B.C. Legislature.
2007 - The province will spend $51-million this year - about $1,000 per student - for aboriginal education. The fund is designed to support aboriginal language and culture programs.
2007 - Dr. Evan Adams is appointed as the province's first Aboriginal Physician Adviser, responsible for monitoring and reporting on the health of aboriginal people in B.C.