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A New Relationship With First Nations In BC?

March 9, 2009

implementing_the_new_relationship_0309It seems that behind the scenes, the BC government has been working on a discussion paper detailing a possible new way of interacting between the provincial government and First Nations. The content of this discussion paper has been endorsed by the First Nations Summit.

The discussion paper has a lot of interesting content:

First of all, it declares that First Nations within BC have had pre-existing governments, rights and territories. Furthermore, this does not have to be proven in a court of law.  This is a big step; previously, First Nations have had to prove that they had governments and territories in a court of law, which tends to require written proof. This is no good for societies that recorded events via oral history. Recognizing this, the BC government is also recognizing the relationship between them and First Nations as a Government to Government relationship.

Secondly, the discussion paper suggest the reconstitution of indigenous nations. Historically, a lot of nations within BC have been split up into many different small bands. The reconstitution of indigenous nations might be a hard task, with many First Nations chiefs used to having power over their band. This discussion paper addresses this by explaining that the reconstitution of indigenous nations would be a voluntary process. A map of the indigenous nations can be seen in this post.

Third of all, the discussion paper suggests the creation of a “Council of Indigenous Nations ” within the Constitution Act of BC. Leaders from the reconstituted indigenous nations would represent their nation on this body. The paper doesn’t really explain what power this Council would have: Is this council “semi-parliamentary”, like a Senate of First Nations? What would it be responsible for, and what would it do?

Finally, there is a commitment by the BC Government to improve consultation with First Nation in regards to activities within their traditional territories. As you might guess, some businesses aren’t too impressed with that idea.

Overall, the discussion paper says a lot of thing that are brave and could help the relationship between the BC government and First Nations. The kicker, however, is related to the details and implementation, and we don’t have those yet.

Let’s hope that this isn’t one of Gordon Campbell’s pet project that he is interested and devoted to one day and then ignores the next.

  1. March 9, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    It’s more than discussion paper. Reports last week indicated that the BC government will be introducing the legislation this month. Suspect they’re trying to get it passed into law before the election. Would be fantastic, particularly given that the majority of native elders agree with it.

    • March 9, 2009 at 9:49 pm

      I know that it’s more than a discussion paper, but the paper’s the only official thing on the topic I can find as of time of writing.

      My concern is that a new (new?) relationship with First Nations is going to take more than legislation, and the Campbell Liberals have a habit of just dropping projects all of a sudden.

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