Farewell to Jack Layton
On August 22, 2011, I woke up to the shocking news that Jack Layton had passed on at the young age of 61. While we knew he did not look good when he appeared on National TV on July 25th, 2011, we all hoped that he would be a survivor of this newest cancer. Jack was personable, took the time for people, and demonstrated an incredible leadership for the NDP. Jack loved Canada, he went to great lengths to fight for his dream, he was eloquent, hard hitting and sacrificed his time, energy and intelligence to fulfilling his dreams. A lot of us wished Jack was the leader of another party as we knew he was Prime Minister material. Watching the huge outpouring of grief and respect for him reconfirms to me how people felt about him regardless of their political affiliation. I had the privilege of meeting him on a few occasions and his commitment and support of indigenous peoples was unquestionable. Canadian politics will not be the same without him. Indeed, First Nations issues will not have the champion we had in Jack to rely on. I always marvel at how one life can affect so many, and Jack is one of those marvels. The memory and legacy of Jack Layton will live on in our minds, history books and his achievements. Klecko, Klecko, Jack for your leadership, your passion, and all you brought to Canada, and as indigenous peoples we will continue our struggle you embraced and fought for.
Ahousaht Fishing Case on Appeal
Is it any surprise that the Federal Government has chosen to take the Ahousaht and other Nuu-chah-nulth Nations fishing court case to the Supreme Court of Canada. As limited as that case was on the sale of sea resources, the government did not like it. So, taking more time and money to challenge the BC Court of Appeal ruling in the highest court of the land. That is if the Court allows leave to appeal. As Nuu-chah-nulth, we always knew that case would have to go the distance, but wouldn’t it be nice if the governments for once, decided to sit down and took the court ruling, worked with First Nations on a policy that could work instead of creating further divisions and bad feelings. It is the usual pattern we see with the federal government trying to avoid implementing court rulings. But then again, aren’t we still waiting on the implementation of Delgamuukw and the recognition of aboriginal title and that was way back in 1997.
Halalt Consultation Case on Appeal:
Here in BC, the government has decided to appeal the Halalt court case on the Chemainus aquifer to the BC Court of Appeal. What happened to the New Relationship, reconciliation and shared decision making? Certainly the decision to appeal is contrary to Premier Christy Clark’s promise to the Chiefs of the First Nations Summit on June 9th where she committed to “continuing and enhancing provincial relations with aboriginal people.” She also said courts and lawyers are not the best route for resolving First Nations issues. Maybe someone should tell the Premier that appealing the Halalt case falls in the category of “not the best route for resolving First Nations issues” and does nothing to enhance provincial relations with First Nations. I am surprised at the decision of the Province to appeal this as the findings of fact by the BC Supreme Court were very strong in concluding that there was no consultation. Is the BC Government just tired of getting its hands slapped because it has no idea how to do consultation properly even after the myriad of court cases telling them how to do it. We are back to where we were before the New Relationship with no sign of reconcilation on the horizon.
HST IS DEAD
Everyone predicted the HST would go down in flames and it did. Of course it depends on what the Liberal Government decides to do with the results of the referendum. One thing is sure, no matter what anyone thought of the HST, the reversal of the tax is going to hurt financially to all British Columbians. The estimated cost of the reversal including the $1.6 billion that has to be repaid to the federal government is $3 billion dollars and will take 18-24 month to reverse. This figure does not include how many millions of dollars were expended in switching over from the GST/PST to the HST. There will be plenty of cuts to programs and services and cutting back of government employees who implement government programs and services. Of all the candidates who ran for the leadership of the Liberal party after Gordon Campbell stepped, no one had a plan on how to deal with the financial implications of a yes vote and over the next while we will see the full implications to First Nations on how we will be impacted collectively and individually on what will need to be some pretty severe cutbacks. By the time the GST/PST is back in place, we would have been down to 11% by 2012 and 10% HST by 2014 and we would have been ahead by $3 billion dollars. BC will not be a great province to live for the next few years with the massive cuts that will need to occur. The price of democracy. Circling back to GST/PST.
THE NEW PROSPERITY MINES AND TASEKO
Talking about going round and round, this week the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency accepted the Project Description for the New Prosperity mine for the gold-copper mine with a price tag of $1 billion to develop. On November 2, 2010, the First Nations around the mine were celebrating the fact that CEAA had turned down the Prosperity Mine as it then was with the destruction of Fish Lake. This proposed mine has been around 17 plus years. 3 Fisheries Minister have said no to the destruction of Fish lake, yet Taseko is trying again. When will it ever end? For the First Nations that are affected-the Tsilhquot’in National Government it means more time and energy to review the new project descriptions and another fight on their hands to defend their aboriginal title and rights that will be negatively impacted by the gold-copper mine. The First Nations do not have sufficient funds and expertise to continually fight this mine and yet they are expected to meet all the deadlines and be part of a very onerous process. Should there be a re-visiting of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and its processes so that this kind of repeated application does not continue to happen? Tweaking of projects cannot mean a whole new application, possibly new technology that alleviates the concerns that resulted in the denial of environmental certificate may be one reason for a new application. I am not sure what that would look like but serious consideration should be given to how to address what has only been a 17 year plus nightmare for these First Nations.
For progress to be made in this country, for First Nations, for recognition and reconciliation of our rights and title, we need to move forward, not in circles. We seem to spend all our energies negatively always needing to fight for our rights and use champions like Jack Layton to make positive change. We need political will of the Provincial and Federal Governments to work with us to work through all these issues, not spend millions of dollars and years in courts or going through regulatory processes. Progress is not made by good words or motherhood statements, progress is made when there is real action which leads to actual positive, collaborative results. Putting up barriers real or perceived will keep us going in circles not unlike a tornado that wreaks destruction and does not build a strong Canada or First Nation. Message to governments: let’s move forward for a change, get off the merry go round, find new ways of working together and actually resolve issues that have been plaguing us for far too long.