By Lloyd Dolha
The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) says the provincial NDP’s proposal for a select committee to tour the province consulting British Columbians about the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act is premature. “Without the availability of the draft legislation to substantially discuss, it is premature for a legislative committee to trek through the province asking input to a discussion paper,” said UBCIC president Chief Stewart Phillip in a July 6th press release. “Our fear is that an ill-defined, ill-instructed committee will only serve to polarize the issue of reconciliation and act as an open invitation for those who oppose the recognition of our [Aboriginal] title and rights.”
The First Nations Leadership Council, composed of the UBCIC First Nations Summit and the BC wing of the Assembly of First Nations, have been hosting regional discussions with First Nations across the province. Discussion of the legislation will continue through summer. At the end of August, a summary report of First Nations concerns will be raised at an all-chiefs assembly.
Of major concern is the proposed plan to reconstitute the province’s 203 First Nations into 30 regional indigenous nations based on tribal groupings. In a letter to the Nanaimo Daily News, minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation George Abbott said the idea of reconstituted indigenous nations is a key part of their proposal and said the province “must await the outcome of [First Nations] discussions before any meaningful public consultation can take place.” In a recent update on the initiative, the First Nations Leadership Council said some elements of the discussion paper were completely rejected and others require reconsideration.
The Leadership Council has also set up a legal and policy caucus composed of lawyers and policy advisors to produce their own concept paper for the advancement of recognition of Aboriginal title based on the advice provided by First Nations at regional discussions – a counter proposal to the NDP’s discussion paper. First Nations have also called for a more collaborative and inclusive process regarding the proposed legislation. “If through that process there is agreement to proceed to a legislative proposal, the UBCIC anticipates it will require a significant departure from the proposed model in the discussion paper,” said Chief Phillip.