Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Ross/Rice return to Legislature work with differing views on Indigenous engagement in BC

The BC Legislature Chamber
(Photo from BC Legislature website)

MLA's returned to their desks at the BC Legislature yesterday, the two week break providing them with a fair bit of time to work on their themes for the Spring session and for the two Northwest representatives, the early discussion topic for their first day back at the office would explore topics surrounding Indigenous engagement and investment in communities.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross started off the back to back observations from the Northwest on Monday, calling on some his past experience as Haisla Chief councillor and the challenges that all First Nations communities find addressing a range of social and economic issues.

Among the points that were raised by both participants during the morning session commentary was a somewhat differing view on how the LNG story has evolved in the Northwest.

With Mr. Ross making note of the opposition at the time from both Ms. Rice and Stikine's Doug Donaldson to the once proposed Pacific Northwest LNG project near Port Edward.

Quite often those who object are non-Aboriginal people that have no connection to the land and could care less about what happens to Aboriginals, let alone the people living on the pipeline route, as long as they win by opposing any resource development whatsoever. Once a development project has been derailed, outside influences declare victory and then vanish without any regard for the consequences. Left in their wake are First Nation communities and non-Aboriginal communities who now must somehow pick up the pieces and try to heal deeply inflicted wounds. We have seen this before, and we're seeing it now. 

Members on the government side, when they were in opposition, were firmly against LNG and didn't even consider coming to our communities, let alone our First Nation communities, to support LNG. When the Haisla and 20 other First Nations were working on the Pacific NorthWest LNG, MLAs on that side were still signing anti-LNG petitions and failing to recognize that 22 First Nation leaders were working as hard as they could to resolve the technical, environmental, social and economic aspects of the LNG opportunity. 

I sincerely hope that every single member of the government caucus now supports, strongly, LNG and the Coastal GasLink pipeline and all of the LNG projects in Kitimat and B.C. and will fight tooth and nail for it, just like the Haisla did and the previous government did.

But what about those First Nations who signed on to Kinder Morgan and who are trying to find the same solutions to the same problems that the Haisla were trying to solve and are trying to reconcile along with the communities beside them? It seems that it's just politics to support one pipeline but then oppose another. The elected councillors that have signed on to Kinder Morgan are doing so because they see an opportunity for the people to resolve social issues. 

This government, by aligning themselves with foreign governments like Washington state and all the foreign money flowing south from the border, like the Tides Foundation, could succeed at keeping Canada out of world energy markets. But it will do so at great cost, including a sacrifice of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Indigenous communities throughout British Columbia, as well as all communities and British Columbia as a whole

For her observations on the theme of the morning, North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice spoke to the Liberal MLA's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest days, as well as to call attention to the wide scope of legislation that the NDP government has put in place, in consort with some of the funding that has been developed across the province for Indigenous communities.

She also put some of her focus on the NDP's commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) a theme that MLA Ross has spoken towards and raised some concerns about many times in the past.

In partnership with the First Nations Leadership Council, we are co-developing new legislation to implement the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples. We will share provincial gaming revenue with Indigenous communities to support self-government — strong, healthy communities and services. This funding was a central part of our recent Budget 2019.

The old government refused to recognize the existence of First Nations' inherent rights, and they refused to implement the UN declaration. They also refused to share gaming revenue with them, something the First Nations' Gaming Commission has been advocating for over a decade. They provided gaming funding to local colonial governments. Why wouldn't they provide gaming funding for First Nations' governments?

Instead, they took a cynical and primarily transactional approach to working with First Nations and only went to them when they wanted something, like when they wanted an LNG terminal in Prince Rupert.

 This tit-for-tat, transactional relationship was developed with area First Nations. We started to see revenue flowing and projects on reserves funded, not because it was the right thing to do, not because people needed supports and it's government's job to support its citizens, not to right decades of colonialism and oppression, only because the former government wanted something — for First Nations, namely their land and resources.

 Compare that to the funding we're providing First Nations communities with the rural dividend grant: money, funding for clean energy and food security projects, diversifying First Nations' economies and not relying solely on a boom-bust one, such as LNG

The full scope of both presentations can be found from the record of yesterday's discussion here, starting at the 11:00 AM mark.

The twin themes can be reviewed from the Legislature Video feed for Monday morning, starting at the 11AM point.

For more notes related to the work in the Legislature see our archive pages below:


North Coast

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

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