Changes Everywhere

Last week I was on a reserve in Saskatchewan where internet is not easily available, so I was unable to enter last week’s entry.  It was a stark reminder to me about how many First Nations communities do not have access to the internet. It was good to see an announcement from the federal government that they were putting more money into BC and the NWT to continue to bring broadband into more communities. For those of us who live with the internet, it is something we take for granted, rely on and it a daily part of our lives. For those communities who live without it, still have to rely on phone, fax and snail mail. We must do what we can to continue to push the governments to ensure that every First Nation community can be connected so that we can include them in the ongoing conversations we need to have in every subject area. 
On Friday afternoon, the Federal Government communicated that they were finally endorsing the Declaration of Indigenous Rights. They did it quietly, when they knew they would not get much press or reaction. We all know the strategy behind press releases on a Friday afternoon, very little is picked up in the media and not much attention is given to it. The Canadian government should hang its head and be embarrassed that it took them three years and two months to endorse an international law which applied to them notwithstanding their refusal to endorse. On September 13, 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This adoption made it an international standard and did not matter that Canada voted against it or did not endorse it. That law has been in existence since it was adopted by the General assembly and Canada chose to flout it.
It is this kind of attitude that Canada has, this disregard for international norms that played a role in their not being voted onto the Security Council. I knew that Canada would not get the votes for the Security Council. You need to walk your talk, and States around the world can see that Canada is not doing enough to help change the third world conditions a lot of First Nations reserves. First Nations communities ranks 76th out of 174 nations when using the United Nations Development Index 2001. This is compared to Canadian communities who rank 8th. A great example of this is what is happening with Chief Bob Chamberlin’s community Kwicksutaineuk-Ah-Kwaw-Ah-Mish First Nation.  The flooding in their community happened in September and now over a month later, the aid that was promised by the Federal government is nowhere in sight stating that the First Nation must first apply for permits. If this happened in any city in Canada and assistance to restore a community took almost two months, there would be loud political backlash. But because it is a First Nations community, the devastation of peoples’ homes remains the same with the majority of the people still unable to move into their own homes. Canada should not be praised by any of our leaders for finally endorsing the Declaration and living up to international law as they should have done this in September 2007.
Always interesting things going on in politics in BC and federally. Jim Prentice resigned, speculation is that he did not like the environmental policies that were set by Canada and was tired of getting all the flack internationally. There is also speculation that he felt he would not be able to do anything of substance and wanted out. If this speculation is really true, it is not a good sign for the environment. We have not seen real leadership with this Conservative government in curbing green house gases or action on climate change so that is not really surprising. At least Jim Prentice decided against Prosperity Mine before he resigned. when Jim Prentice was Minister of Indian Affairs we did not see much change in that department either, so either it is government polices and directions or the person himself. 
While it is old news, the resignation of Gordon Campbell was somewhat surprising on the timing. We all knew he would resign as Premier before the next election, but maybe not as early as this. While Gordon Campbell may have been controversial, he did make many changes in this province. He was the first Premier to ever stand up in the Legislature and recognize rights and title. He was the push behind the New Relationship. Amazingly, he was pushing the Kelowna accord and was a spokesperson for  our issues nationally. The problem with Gordon Campbell’s vision in the New Relationship was the inability of his government to implement it, things like shared decision making, resource and benefit sharing, Land Use Planning. Changing the attitudes and policies of a huge bureaucracy is a challenge and unfortunately there was not enough emphasis and push behind the needed change.  With every government, there is always things you can work together on and things we will never see eye to eye on. Promoting understanding between the government and First Nations is very important and helps to build the relationships from which to work on the harder issues. The question arises, will the next Premier that is selected by the Liberals be prepared to move the First Nations agenda forward in the same way. Gordon Campbell also made changes and exhibited leadership on the environment and setting goals to reduce greenhouse gases. Will the next Premier also carry out these goals and objectives?
 Many First Nations did not get what they wanted out of this government, but there were positive achievements over the years. As First Nations we cannot go backwards in what we are trying to achieve and so we will continue the political lobby, court cases and where necessary, protests. I am not a fan of the HST, but I am also aware that billions of dollars will need to be paid back to the federal government if the referendum next September votes it down. How will the BC government come up with this money? How many more services will have to be cut back? Right now there are many cuts and things are pretty grim. If paying back the money to the Federal Government means even greater cuts to First Nations, or to the ability of the BC Government to reach settlements, we need to know that. Whatever governments comes in, whatever Premier there is, we need to understand what will be the financial plan and how it will impact us if the HST is reversed and BC has to pay back the federal government. We do not like the HST, but if it is gone, we need to know how this will be handled so we can make the right decision when the referendum comes up. There are many issues and questions out there and we need to understand them and how they will impact us as First Nations. 
It is a time of change in the province and the country. We can make this a positive change for our communities if we remain well informed and engaged.

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