We are now one week post the BC Election where most everyone expected a NDP government and whole new regime to operate in. The result was surprising to most and very unexpected to say the least. It has taken time to process the results and the realities we now face as First Nations with the same old government attitudes and policies. Growing the economy and jobs convinced many to overlook the betrayal of the HST, the ethnic vote scandal, and the many negative events that have happened over the Liberal years. Fascinating how so many could forgive and forget, or was it really that many?
When you consider that the voter turnout of eligible voters was 49% or 52.2% of registered voters, not that many British Columbians were of the mind to vote-it just was not important enough. But even more startling than those stats, 723,133 people or just 21.8% of eligible voters voted for the Liberals and they won with the support of a very small number of people within BC. Not a stellar mandate, but a mandate nonetheless. This is beyond voter apathy and with every election, less people are voting. Seems there is no belief in the system of voting as it now is or no belief that voting can change things, or no belief in the existing political parties. Whatever the reason, it speaks volumes that this government was elected by so few people and I am sure, a very small percentage of First Nations people voted.
When one looks at the issues and why people voted for the liberals, the economy was second most important issue, jobs were seventh and the environment 14th. The values of the people of BC are totally opposite to that of most First Nations who would put the environment that supports their ability to exercise their rights as number one. Strangely enough the NDP ranked highest with voters for an open and honest government and trust in the leader/party, health, education and high points for Desire for Change. If that many people wanted change, it didn’t compute into the election results. http://greenpolicyprof.org/wordpress
That desire for change did not provide enough impetus to win the election for the NDP, so, unless First Nations want the same old, they are going to have to push Christy Clark and her government very hard to do business differently. Maybe Liberals should take into consideration the NDP promise to utilize the principles set out in the Universal Declaration of Indigenous Rights-take a page out of Gordon Campbell’s book where he took First Nations and the environment issues away from the NDP and did them better. Or use the consent of First Nations for major projects as set out in the green party platform. Reset the relationship on a valid basis, or even implement the New Relationship as it was intended.
Christy Clark mapped out her first 100 days in an interview with the Globe and Mail on May 18th. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/premier-christy-clark-maps-out-ambitious-early-agenda/article12011478/) Not unpredictably, she made no mention of First Nations, only the economy and jobs. I wonder when she and her government will understand that natural resource developments require First Nation consultation and cooperation for certainty for proposed projects and until good relationships with First Nations are established and the constitutional duties are fulfilled, growing the economy and related jobs will not happen. This is a glaring contrast with Adrian Dix who promised to hold a meeting with First Nations leaders in the first 100 days on many issues.
What does that signal to me? That confrontations with First Nations on many of the mega natural resource developments will continue, either in court, in tribunals, in the media and when necessary on the land. I think Idle No More may focus its attention on provincial issues in due course and not just federal ones. I know government staffers have been concerned that this could happen and this may be the summer it happens. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has predicted “that we are, in all likelihood, moving toward an era of confrontation and conflict, given the fact that under Premier Clark's leadership there was no effort to invest in any significant or genuine way in terms of building a closer relationship with the Indigenous peoples of this province. She was quite dismissive and very distant with respect to continuing the work of the so-called 'new relationship'.” (http://rabble.ca/news/2013/05/grand-chief-stewart-phillip-gold-rush-mentality-trumps-human-rights-and-social-needs-bc)
Unless, there can be a real commitment to reconciliation with First Nations, on First Nations terms and invest both time and resources to the mega job of reconciliation, confrontation will occur. Uncertainty will continue as First Nations challenge the decisions to proceed with development that will infringe our rights, and at what point does that infringement become abrogation with the cumulative effects of many projects or even one that has devastating effects on the environment that sustains the ecosystems that support medicinal plants, wildlife, birds and fish.
The New Relationship Vision of 2005 is cited in every agreement the BC government has entered into including the much lauded Mining Mineral Tax Revenue, the Community and Economic Development Agreements, Strategic Engagement Agreements, etc., but beyond these citations the commitments of reconciliation, shared decision making, revenue and benefit sharing, land Use planning and institutions to implement these items has never been fulfilled and the odd agreement here and there is just not enough and every First Nation in the province must be part of the Reconciliation envisioned in the New Relationship.
The pattern of the Liberal Government is to enter into agreements with First Nations where there are issues of importance for them ranging from the Olympics, to mega projects that will bring revenue into the country. The Premier on CBC said she disagreed with me that little progress had been made under her regime and that they had entered into 10 agreements with First Nations. 10 agreements which I am not speaking against, but what about the other 193 First Nations that are without revenue sharing, shared decision making, incremental treaty agreements, etc. I might have been impressed if the Premier said 50% of First Nations and set a goal to do agreements with the rest of First Nations within her next term of office.
Now that the Premier doesn’t have to spend so much time and effort in tearing down Adrian Dix and the liberals, she will have time to focus on First Nations which are a barrier between her goal of growing the economy and creating jobs. It was something we had to remind Gordon Campbell of over and over again and he did change his tactics with the New Relationship.
Failing political will of the BC Government, First Nations will just have to assert themselves and their jurisdiction. Of note, is reclaiming and renaming of Mount Douglas occurring tonight in Victoria, in WSÁNE? territory. It will now be known as PKOLS. This is where the Douglas Treaties were signed and is an important place for the WSÁNE? people. There is also the shíshálh (Sechelt) First Nation setting out how Decisions will be made in their territory. These are a few examples of how First Nations can assert their title and jurisdictions and I anticipate more of this as First Nations tire of trying to work with an unresponsive government. There comes a time when a First Nation has tried every avenue possible to promote positive change and solutions for their community but each First Nations knows when it is time to stop banging their head against the wall and move onto another strategy that could bring results.
First Nations need and want a government that they can have honest government to government discussions and negotiations. They need a government that can be innovative, flexible and creative to design the right solution for every First Nation. If this government cannot provide that in the next few years expect more confrontation, uncertainty in the province, court cases and Idle No More protests. I wish that we could put our energies in positive solutions instead of always having to fight for every change that is needed. With the Liberals in Government for the next four and a half years, it will be a bumpy ride, but that is what we as First Nations live with every day. Until First Nations issues and values become election issues, this struggle to de-colonize, to protect our rights and way and life will continue and create uncertainty not only in BC, but across Canada.