The members of the British Columbia Legislature have been debating and discussing elements of Bill 25, the Education Statutes Amendment Act which has been introduced by the NDP government, legislation that will amend the First Nations Education, the Teachers Act and the Criminal Records Review Act.
Much of the debate to date from members has been focused on the elements related to change for First Nations education, among those participants have been North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross who both spoke to the topic this week in the Legislature.
Mr. Ross led off the northwest review on Tuesday afternoon, with the MLA again raising his previous concerns over how he views the Province's consultation approach with the 203 First Nations across the province.
I had to get up and speak to Bill 25, the Education Statutes Amendment Act, 2021, that — amongst other things — actually promotes the ability of the province to come onto reserve and certify teachers on reserve. That's quite the complicated question, because on reserve, as we know, the province, in most cases, is not welcome.
It's federal jurisdiction. You have to be invited specifically to come onto reserve to implement anything provincial. In this case here, I never really had any issue with the objective of certifying teachers on reserve. In fact, many schools across Canada could use the certification that we're talking about in this House.
The issue I take, though, is that there's some misunderstanding that chiefs and councils don't already have this authority.
They could pass a bylaw. They could pass their own law right now, with or without the Indian Act. With or without Bill 25, they can do this. That power and authority already exists.
Mr. Ross then explored some of the elements of the act and what it seeks to address.
The local education agreement can be strengthened, I agree. If this bill, Bill 25, actually mentions that and actually enables both sides of the table to actually enact a really strong local education with the First Nation and the local school district, more power to the First Nations.
Good. It's a long time coming. But I don't understand the issue of the certification of teachers on reserve when First Nation councils already have that authority. They can do it without the province. They can do it without Bill 25.
And in terms of the consultation we talked about — this is an old theme I've talked about — this government has actually contradicted and breached its own law that it passed in this House in terms of UNDRIP, Bill 41, which they like to talk about in terms of reconciliation.
The bill, that UNDRIP promised by the NDP government, said they would consult the leaders and the rights and title holders of B.C.
We haven't seen one example of that yet. All we hear is how this government has consulted advocacy groups that do not represent the opinions of British Columbia's First Nations communities — the leadership council, or administrative bodies that do not represent the communities of First Nations.
Rights and title holders are actually the community members, so it only stands to reason that the rights and title holders that you should be negotiating with are those leaders that are selected by their communities to represent them.
Not once have I heard any legislation come through this House that actually recites the consultation that was done with 203 First Nations.
And It sounds to me like Bill 25 failed to deliver that as well. You're breaking your own law.
The wide ranging address covered a number of themes, including how the government is taking an approach of reconciliation towards its plans, something that the Skeena MLA had a few more thoughts on.
There has been a lot of work being done ever since 2004, especially around reconciliation. Reconciliation has been happening in B.C. since 2004, regardless of what you think
Because I was on the other side of that table actually helping implement it.
Reconciliation did include education. I did agree with that. But more importantly, it had an economic component to it that actually resolves a lot of the issues that we like to talk about, the social issues of Aboriginals.
So, I look forward to more speeches, but I do ask the government to keep it in perspective. It is not the silver bullet that you proclaim it to be.