Thursday, April 19, 2018

Uncertainty of First Nations Benefits Agreements; theme of questions from MLA Ellis Ross in Kinder Morgan debate

The fate of Economic Benefit arrangements for First Nations related to the
Trans Mountain expansion was the theme for MLA Ellis Ross on Wednesday, with
Mr. Ross raising the issue during Question Period

As the rhetoric between Alberta, British Columbia and the Federal Government continues to cross the mountains over the Kinder Morgan pipeline issues, Skeena MLA Ellis Ross was making note of some of the concerns from the thirty three First Nations that have signed benefits agreement related to the pipeline development project.

Speaking in the Legislature on Wednesday, Mr. Ross observed that the opportunity to provide for a range of community concerns is a key aspect when First Nations negotiated the agreements, with the Skeena MLA inquiring if the the province will honour the agreements that have been completed as part of the project.

 Previous to this job, I spent 14 years working for the chief and council as elected leader. Typical of our band, like many bands across Canada, the number one issue that we had on our table was poverty, dependence and all the social issues that come with it. The one shining light that we had was to sign impact benefit agreements with projects in our territory. These were well-thought-out agreements. We spent a lot of time on it.

We spent a lot of money on lawyers, consultants, and we consult with our membership continuously. There is no one in this chamber that can speak to the process that I participated in, and there's no one in this chamber telling me what I should think or say about it in relation to these issues.

 Today there are 33 First Nations in B.C. who have been through the exact same process; 33 First Nations who have worked hard, in good faith, to negotiate project benefit agreements on the Trans Mountain expansion so they can address their own issues on their own terms.

 My question is to the Minister of Indigenous affairs. If the Premier is successful in stopping this already approved project in terms of the Trans Mountain expansion, will he honour the economic terms of these already negotiated agreements?

The reply from Scott Fraser the Minister for Indigenous affairs was a fairly brief one, which noted that there are many different perspectives from First Nations around the province when it comes to the Kinder Morgan debate.

As part of his response on behalf of the government, the Minister instead put the focus on the environment, rather than the fate of the benefit agreement arrangements that may have been made.

I thank the member for his question. Of course, there are different perspectives from First Nations around the province on Kinder Morgan. Only nations can speak on their own behalf. People of B.C. expect this government to defend our province from the devastating consequences of a bitumen spill on our coast. The risks are too great for our economy and for the environment and for our coast, and we will continue to defend B.C. and stand up for our interests. 

 As a follow up to the Government's answer, the Skeena MLA made note of the importance of the negotiated agreements and recounted the exhaustive process that First Nations take on to become part economic discussion in the province.

Ms. Ross, then added that with the current state of the discussions between BC, Alberta and the Federal Government , there is now uncertainty for those First Nations that took on that process on for the Trans Mountain project.

I've heard that before. What I'm asking specifically is, though: will the 33 First Nations that signed on to impact benefit agreements continue to be ignored? Because they're trying to address real issues that are happening in real time right now in their communities. 

Many First Nations see these agreements as a means to be being meaningfully involved in the economy of British Columbia and Canada. This is a huge part of reconciliation, and it's a huge answer to the issues that these First Nations are facing all across Canada. We always hear this in this House. It's a crisis, in terms of the issues facing First Nations, but we never talk about the one solution that can solve it for these First Nations. We present band-aids. We present rhetoric and speeches but no real solutions. 

Now, benefit agreements that were the result of an exhaustive process are in doubt because of the uncertainty caused by the Premier. [1410] My question, again, is to the Indigenous Minister in regards to the 33 First Nations who have signed on to the Trans Mountain expansion. Will he commit that these agreements will be honoured?

The Minister Fraser once again observed that he would not speak on the behalf of the for the 203 First Nations in British Columbia,with many different opinions on the Trans Mountain project  and continued to turn the focus of the discussion towards environmental concerns

The Skeena MLA's  line of questions, follows what has become the main focus of the opposition Liberal members over the last two weeks, with the province's approach to the issue making for a large volume of the debate in the Legislature.

You can review the full exchange from transcript of the Wednesday proceedings here, Mr. Ross's question is raised at just before 14:10 PM.

As well, the video review of the Question Period discussion is available from the Legislature Video Archive here, the Q & A with the minister takes place at the just before the 14:10 mark of Wednesday afternoon.

For more items of interest from the Legislature see our archive page here.

A wider overview of the Trans Mountain debate from Ottawa and Victoria can be followed through our political portal D'Arcy McGee, you can find the links to our archives below.

Victoria Viewpoints

Ottawa Observations

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

1 comment:

  1. Ellis Ross asks reasonable questions, but once again he gets non-answers from the NDP government. Minister Fraser was not asked to speak on behalf of 203 First Nations. He was asked to answer on behalf of his government. I can see why polls are indicating growing support for Kinder Morgan.