I wanted to take a look at what the political parties are saying about indigenous peoples in BC. I thought I would start with the BC Liberals. The Liberals platform can be found at files.flipsnack.com/iframe/embed.html
An overview of the platform shows me immediately that Adrian Dix and the NDP get top billing in this platform and they are mentioned so many times and First Nations people a whole lot less, yet it is the First Nations whose title and rights still exist and are constitutionally protected. Uncertainty over First Nations rights and title affects the BC economy in a major way and yet little attention is paid to First Nations.
If First Nations are not in the area of the LNG facilities, near a new mine, there is not much for you in the Liberal Platform. There is no discussion of shared decision making or the New Relationship or reconciliation. Legal requirements for consultation are mentioned only for pipelines, not LNG or other developments. There is promise for looking for feasibility of a protected area in the Klappan but no where else. There will be other opportunities for revenue sharing but no real details other than the mining tax revenues(mentioned 3 times). There is nothing in particular for First Nations in education, health, childcare, jobs and training. Commitments are made to do more area based tenures in the forests after ‘consulting’ with First Nations and everyone else but no commitment to settle outstanding forestry issues with First Nation or shared/joint decision making. I do not see a whole lot for First Nations unless you are located in areas of proposed development, especially LNG, which is exactly how the BC Liberals have been working with First Nations now.
Remember I had listed the top issues for the election as 1. Mega projects 2. BC hydro’s pull back on Standing offer program 3. Revenue and benefit sharing 4. Shared decision-making 5. Reconciliation and the New Relationship 6. Heritage Conservation in particular human remains and protection of sacred sites. 7. Water issues and the New Water Act. I had a couple people mention that I should also include off reserve housing and forestry. Let’s see how the Liberal platform measures up to my list:
The first mention of First Nations in the Platform is on page 9 in relation to LNG. Everyone knows that Christy Clark has placed the economic future of BC on LNG. First Nations are mentioned on page 9 on a timeline for January 2013 in relation to the 2nd LNG plant at Kitsault near Prince Rupert where the announcement will be made with First Nations partners and the federal regulations are unveiled that allow the LNG plant in Kitimat to proceed on Haisla land. These LNG projects still have to go through First Nations consultations including Fort Nelson First Nation’s opposition to fracking, environmental assessment, ensuring a market for LNG, the price of natural gas, etc. This is not a commitment.
p.11 does mention working with First Nations and private sector to ensure a pipeline corridor across northern BC to support LNG facilities in and around Prince Rupert. Notice that there is no mention of consultation and accommodation and the Honour of the Crown and that “working with” is lumped in the same category as the private sector. No recognition or reconciliation there for rights and title.
p.12 is entitled Pledges in support of LNG talks of how they will continue to work with Clean Energy BC and create renewable power that is a big interest of First Nations. They commit to continue the Standing Offer Program for energy creation under 15 MW which I mentioned is now been amended to allow for a two year delay at BC Hydro’s option. There is no call for power on the horizon as the Integrated resource plan is on hold waiting for LNG proposals to proceed, so until there is an actual call for power, this pledge is not very realistic at this time.
There is a section on page 12 entitled First Nations, this is still under the section on LNG, and again they mention “work with First Nations”, not consult and accommodate or do Shared Decision Making on the pipeline across Northern BC. They also pledge to Support those First Nations like Haisla who work with companies doing the LNG. There is no indication what that support will look like.
p. 12: There is a commitment to add $1 million to the Clean Energy Business fund to help First Nations who are doing renewable energy. Remember that it takes $4-5 million per megawatt of power so this is not a lot of money to help First Nation in the development of Clean Energy Projects. It is good seed money for soft costs. The largest equity contribution out of the Fund has been $500,000 for Osoyoos Indian Band’s industrial park and for Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation run of the river project.
p.12: There is a further commitment to work with First Nations on “Economic and Community Development Agreements that provide a share of mineral tax revenues to the First Nation for NEW AND MAJOR EXPANSIONS of mines. So this is an incentive to allow a mine to proceed in the First Nation’s territory.
p.12: There is also a commitment to work with First Nations and Clean Energy BC to create opportunities for renewable energy for LNG projects. This after the province telling LNG proponents they can power their plants anyway they want, and all the other issues noted above. (when they originally amended the Clean Energy Act to capture average water years instead of critical water years, they promised the IPP’s they would ensure the LNG’s were run by Clean energy projects and then changed this in their effort to get LNG plants going).
p.12: Talks about a commitment to training northern and aboriginal residents to be first in line for jobs created by LNG projects.
p.14: is about Pipelines for heavy oil and the 5 conditions before they can proceed. One condition is that the legal requirements for aboriginal and treaty rights must be complied with. This requirement is noticeably absent in the LNG section. And that information, opportunity and resources necessary are provided to First Nations so they can participate and benefit from these pipelines. When all the First Nations in Northern BC in the path of the pipelines are opposed to them, I am unsure why they would want to participate and benefit in them.
pp's 17-19 talks about the major infrastructure that is being build and will be built. No mention of the cultural and heritage issues that often hold up these projects as burial sites, archaeological sites, sacred sites and other important cultural sites are encountered. I know there have been issues with First Nations and these developments that remain unresolved around this infrastructure.
p. 22 mentions the BC Jobs plan and non treaty agreements and that they will be continued. Not sure how the BC Jobs plan and non treaty agreements are connected but the commitment is there to do more mining tax revenues as Tk’emlumps, Skeetchestn and McLeod Lake Indian Band have. These have already been mentioned in the platform as the Economic and Community Development agreements.
p. 28 talks of consultations with communities, industry, environmental organizations, forest professionals and finally, First Nations on diverse area based tenure. Again, lumping consultations with First Nations with everyone else when there is Constitutional, duty to Consult with First Nations that is different than “consulting” with everyone else. We know the Liberals were trying through Bill-8 tried to amend the Forest Act to turn all Crown forests into tree farm licenses/area based tenures. They did withdraw that portion of Bill 8. There was no plan as to how some areas of the forests would be set aside for First Nations protected areas and no plan on how to settle forestry issues with First Nations. To implement turning Crown forests into area based tenure, there needs to be a comprehensive plan as to how that would happen so people would know what it would entail, and to finally settle with First Nations in the forests. The BC Government wants to give out all tenures and then, when and if there are treaties, would have to buy those tenures back and take that cost off the top of the treaties with First Nations having to get less. There should be intense Consultations with First Nations or better still, shared decision making before this even becomes a law if it ever does.
p. 29 commits the Liberals to continue doing agreements on revenue sharing on natural resources. They have done for new mines, Independent power production for new projects, not large dams like Site C, or in heritage assets. There is some revenue in forestry, but other than that, there is no real detail what revenue sharing will be on or what it will look like or what natural resources it will be based on.
p. 59 commits to complete consultations on the Water Act and pass the Water Sustainability act in 2014. (no specific mention of First Nations but it was an area of concern that I did mention as an election issue for first Nations. Issues like scarcity of water, water management, FITFIR, aboriginal right to water, etc.)
p. 60 work with communities, First Nations and industry to look at the feasibility of a protected area in the Klappan
p. 60 To put in place a round table with representatives from communities, industry, labour, environmental organizations and First Nations to guide the province in balancing “protecting the important parts of the environment” with jobs and creation of wealth. Interesting concept. Wonder what they mean by the “important part of the environment” and what would not be included. The round table will only provide guidance to the province, not be binding. It is an interesting concept but it sounds pretty toothless.
After reviewing the BC Liberal platform, I see nothing much to start a new term as government in a good way for all 203 First Nations. There have been some good things done during the terms Gordon Campbell was premier but less so with Christy Clark. There must be a great renewal in government to government negotiations with First Nations or the uncertainty will continue through court cases, blockades, and lack of being able to work with one another. I realize this platform probably does have a lot more about First Nations than we have seen before, but considering where we need to go, is sadly lacking as innovative or progressive. If as much time and effort was put into First Nations issues as it was into knocking Adrian Dix, there may have been some real progressive ideas in this platform for First Nations.