Where to BC? Beyond Election 2020 for First Nations

The election was an opportunity to air the grievances of what had not been done or done properly by the NDP government. Now it is time to change the way things were going or continue on at a faster pace or to make decisions. This is what I would like to see begun in the first 120 days and the renewed mandate of government.

1. The Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples Act. (DRIPA)

a) There must be immediate action on completing an Action Plan that must have input from all 203 First Nations and get to work.
b) While putting together the action plan, name 3 priorities to work on immediately like Clean Energy, Old Growth and Mental Health Act with the consent of First Nations.
c) There must be recognition that a completed Action Plan does not stop the work of implementing DRIPA.
d) Also, BC must mandate their negotiators immediately to start negotiating joint decision-making models or consent before decision models as set out in the DIPRA. (section 7). We should set targets like to see up to 10 agreements finalized in 3 months-show progress and good faith.
e) Mandate the Joint Working Group on Heritage Conservation Working Group to amend the Heritage Conservation Act to be consistent with UNDRIP and work with First Nations communities as well. Mandate bureaucrats to negotiate Joint Decision making over heritage, spiritual, cultural sites with First Nations communities and alleviate the need to use s. 4 of the current Act which BC has refused to implement.
f) Make immediate changes on how legislation is drafted that incorporates First Nations people in the drafting and the amending of laws-no secrecy to ensure First Nations have say in how the laws are amended to be in line with UNDRIP.
g) Start working groups of First Nations peoples on various priority laws like Clean Energy Act, Mines Act, Forestry Act, Mental Health Act, Education Act…Have a process defined on how First Nations can each have input into changing laws and follow it. No rush mentalities.
h) Do not bring back similar laws that failed in this past session and start at the beginning with First Nations. This include amendments to the Clean energy Act (bill 17) Mental Health Act(Bill 22) and the Mines Act (bill 7).

2. Site C dam and clean energy: John Horgan says he has to wait for a report from a consultant on Site C dam before making a decision on whether to proceed at a great cost or to end construction. There would have to be some major costly repairs done for some pretty impossible issues. There would also have to be ways to keep workers safe as for many months, the workers have not been safe in dust and secure locations.
a) Decision has to be made to stop the Site C Dam. Dangers to the public are greater than ever and flooding of communities a possibility.
b) Economic Opportunities for First Nations must be made available to create clean energy.
c) If Site C does down, there must be a major call for clean power that includes a certain set aside to First Nations or insist that any proposals to sell power to the grid had to have a majority of First Nation control.
d) First Nations who are involved in clean energy must be brought together to work on bringing the Clean Energy Act into conformity with UNDRIP which includes First Nations doing their own development and management of projects in their territory.
e) First Nations need to have priority to provide power to the grid over power imports from the US and Alberta. Government must retain self sufficiency.
f) Accept and strength BCUC recommendations on First Nation utilities so that First Nations utilities must be developed within their territories (not just reserves), use the transmission grid and amend any laws necessary to ensure First Nations can operate utilities.

3. COVID: BC must resolve the outstanding issues with Nuu-chah-nulth, Heiltsuk and Tsilhqot’in based on a Nation to Nation relationship that is envisioned in DRIPA and through reconciliation. As numbers of COVID are increasing daily and we are in a second wave, action must be taken immediately. This includes:

a) Ensure rapid testing and results are available for every First Nation regardless of location.
b) Money and training be made available to train contact tracers in every First Nation.
c) Money be made available to finance screening checkpoints and the ability to have screening checkpoints on highways and locations outside of the reserve as a First Nations sees fit.
d) Provide information on confirmed COVID cases in proximate locations to the reserve. This information is needed to make good governance decisions to ensure the protection of members and the further spread of COVID.
Above all, the province needs to work with First Nations before making major decision like opening up the province to business. A new relationship was envisioned by DRIPA and we need to start respecting that we are acting differently and not just having the province make decisions for First Nations. Paternalism needs to be a thing of the past.
4. Old Growth: Work with First Nations on the recommendations of the Panel on Old Growth. First Nations need to manage their own forests for sustaining ecosystems and retaining sufficient old growth for our needs. Need the consent of First Nations on these recommendations to move forward on with these and other solutions.
4. Racism: First Nations and BC need to put in place a strategy to eliminate systemic racism in this province. Education, recognition and actions are key to doing this.
5. Support Island Rail to get it up and operational. Is a unique joint venture between First Nations and regional district and is a valuable asset to utilize.
6. Climate Change: Needs more effort put into reducing greenhouse gases and addressing
7. So many other things that I won’t go into detail on.

Conclusions:

You have to work with the government in power and I am prepared to do that. I am prepared to push this government and call them out on things they don’t do right and give praise for things they do right. Gaming Revenue sharing was a huge accomplishment. What else can we do? Passing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Act was a good thing, but the lack of implementation on changing laws and shared decision making agreements takes away from the positive expectations of what that could bring. Things have to move faster, First Nations peoples have been stymied long enough and saying we need to get an action plan in place or we can’t talk to First Nations because of COVID is not good excuse. COVID is with us for a long time and we must take advantage of technology to communicate and complete things. John Horgan now has his majority government with no other party to hold him back but he has to remember First Nations issues should be a priority and be prepared to do things differently, DRIPA and reconciliation demand it.

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