Shared Decision Making: A Way to Avoid Conflict

This is the launch of my blog on the First Nations in BC web portal.  Much time and effort has gone into this web portal to try and bring as much information together in one place for all First Nations people within British Columbia and since it is on the web, for people everywhere.
Along with information, this blog will serve as a way to dialogue with people on current issues, illustrate what is on the website, find out how useful the website is and what you see as missing and needed to help your community. it is a way to use our voices.
On Monday, I spoke to the Women’s luncheon of the International Bar Association being held in Vancouver. Lawyers from all over the world were in attendance from places such as Hong Kong, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, Poland, Japan, Bahamas, Germany, Africa and all over the United States. I shared with them the state of our First Nations in Canada and how we have always struggled as a Peoples to seek a just settlement for our title to this land they call British Columbia. I spoke of colonization and how it affected us, and the constant need to be in court, protesting, politicking, and educating people about our rights and title. People around the world need to know our issues.
It starting me thinking why it is we always have to be engaged in a struggle in order to make progress and protect our rights. All our energies are spent in fighting with, or trying to work with governments that are not responsive enough to our needs as First Nations. How wonderful would it be if that energy could be spent in building our Nations, improving the infrastructure and services in our communities and know that we were constantly moving ahead and being able to continue our way of life and ensure we can still exercise all of our rights!
In 2005, the Province and the three political organizations in this province, The First Nations Summit, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and the BC Assembly of First Nations entered into a Vision statement “the New Relationship.” One of the principles agreed to in the New Relationship was Shared Decision Making. While undefined in the Vision Statement, it was to be developed and implemented by all parties.
Can you imagine a world where First Nations and government collectively decide whether a mine like Prosperity Mine would or would not go ahead, or whether the Enbridge Pipeline or Site C could proceed? And if any development in BC went ahead, the terms and conditions it would proceed on in order to protect the rights of First Nations people. Instead, the decisions at present lie with various levels of government or environmental processes. If decisions are made that First Nations do not like, they are forced to go through a lengthy, expensive court battle or defend their land and resources in whatever way they can. This struggle continues with no end in sight.
The Haida in their Reconciliation Legislation have a Council which has two Haida members, two members appointed by the government, and a Chair jointly appointed that can vote when there is a tie. The Council determines the Annual Allowable Cut for Haida Gwaii, the use and management of lands and resources for the purposes of the Forestry and management plans for the protection use, and or management of natural resources, cultural values and recreation and conservation of heritage sites. There are limitations with existing laws as to what the Council can do, but it is coming closer to shared decision making than anything we have seen to date and as of yet, that part of the Haida Legislation has not come into force.

BC needs to move on its commitment for shared decision making so that every First Nation can share in decisions as to what happens within their territory. First Nations political leadership needs to pressure the BC government to do this so that First Nations are not constantly in a struggle to protect what is important to us. Shared Decision making will empower First Nations in this province instead of having to stand by and wait for someone else to make decisions that will impact on our people for many generations to come and force some form of conflict.  Let's make the Vision a reality!

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