Tuesday, November 26, 2019

MLA Ross speaks to UNDRIP in the Legislature, sharing his concerns of lost progress over a return to square one

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross delivered another thoughtful response to
the themes of UNDRIP in the Legislature on Monday

The themes of Reconciliation and the NDP government's plans towards moving forward with its process towards the adoption of UNDRIP made for some focus for Skeena MLA Ellis Ross on Monday morning.

As the Northwest MLA continued to share much of his experience on First Nations governance and voice his concerns over the proposed government initiative with the Legislature.

Mr. Ross, who had previously in the session introduced Dale Swampy, the President of the National Coalition of Chiefs to the Legislature, highlighted some of the work of that organization, government and First Nations leaders and others towards initiatives addressing poverty, environmental stewardship and other issues.

As he called on his previous work as a First Nations leader with the Haisla recounting his fourteen years of work on many issues, framing much of his presentation to the Legislature on the potential impact that UNDRIP could have on the work already done to address many of the concerns of Indigenous leaders and communities.

The MLA for Skeena observed as to how distractions can take away from the progress that has been made in the province for at least the last ten years in terms of First Nations self determination and reconciliation.

The new dialogue with First Nations didn't, and still doesn't, require a declaration from an international organization to force collaboration on reconciliation. We don't need it, based on our progress in the last 37 years, let alone the last 15 years. B.C. governments and First Nations just need to follow the same path established under case law and landmark decisions, such as Haida in 2004. 

For example, Chief LeBourdais of Whispering Pines doesn't need some international declaration to give him authority to stand up for his people and say land title records ought not be moved from his territory to Victoria. He doesn't need that. Chief Shelly Loring of the Simpcw First Nation doesn't need some authority, foreign or domestic, to make claim over Canfor's Vavenby forestry tenures for the benefit of the region. 

 Governments also don't need to be forced to listen to First Nations who support fish farms. In this case, we don't even need case law. All we need is common courtesy in the context of what we've achieved in the last 15 years. 

The Skeena MLA noted that legislation such as UNDRIP is fifteen years if not more too late and how progress that has been found over the last 37 years may in the end have been wasted as the provincial government looks to take on the new approach through the legislation proposed.

Instead, governments need to listen to advocacy people like Dale Swampy, who is here today, and the National Coalition of Chiefs. This is a group of First Nations chiefs and M├ętis leaders that advocate for oil and gas development and resource development to help defeat poverty in Aboriginal communities across Canada. 

These are the heroes of the day. These are the champions. These are the people government has to listen to, without a doubt. If government truly wants to reconcile and help First Nations in their efforts for self-determination, government can, without prejudice and without partisan politics, treat all First Nations equally. 

Because It doesn't matter which side of politics a First Nation might be on, whether it be LNG, fish farms or the expansion of Trans Mountain. All First Nations face the same issues under the Indian Act, and all First Nations are looking for self-determination. 

 In this context, something like UNDRIP is at least 15 years too late, if not 37 years too late, in terms of precedent. 

My fear is that we have the potential to waste all the progress that we have fought over for the last 37 years as a province and as a country. We've got the potential to lose all this progress if government tries to start a new dialogue and set us back to square one.

The full text of his presentation to the Legislature can be found from the Legislature Archive here, with the accompanying video found here, starting at the 11:50 AM mark of Monday morning's session.

For more items of note on the work of the Legislature see our archive pages below:

Skeena and Stikine Archive

North Coast Archive

For a wider overview of politics out of Victoria see our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

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