VANCOUVER – The B.C. Liberal government’s continued failures in its relations with First Nations are hurting opportunities for people and businesses who depend on certainty over B.C.’s land base.
“Premier Clark appears to know the right things to say about First Nations relations,” said New Democrat spokesperson for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser. “But she and her government don’t seem to care enough to actually engage in the respectful relations that would deliver for people whose opportunities to make a living and grow their businesses depend on certainty over the land base.”
Fraser said that while the premier talks about reconciliation and mutual economic prosperity, her conduct remains in lockstep with the outdated views of her close economic advisor and appointee to head the Industry Training Authority, Gwyn Morgan. Instead of urging reconciliation and negotiation with First Nations, Morgan recently called aboriginal title “poison for our country.”
Fraser cited a litany of recent failures that have undermined relationships and threatened economic opportunities. They include the seven year legal fight with the Tsilhqot’in, breaching the government’s legal duty to consult with the Taku River Tlingit on a proposed mine, failing to say ‘no’ to Enbridge to clear the way for B.C.’s resource development, flip-flopping on environmental assessment of gas wells and divisive negotiating tactics with the Gitxsan.
“Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberal government have been divisive, incompetent and neglectful,” said Fraser. “The government just can’t seem to deliver on the basic expectation of dealing respectfully and effectively with First Nations. That’s moving B.C. backwards on the road to reconciliation and greater economic opportunity.”
Fraser outlined three things the premier must do right now to repair its relationships:
1. Send Prime Minister Harper a clear “no” on the Enbridge pipeline, so B.C. can avoid the serious, immitigable risks of transporting Alberta bitumen and focus on sharing the benefit of B.C.’s own resources in a balanced and sustainable way.
2. Get to the table with First Nations to discuss specific title claims and demand that the federal government not back away from reconciliation, but be a full and contributing partner at the table.
3. End her government’s failed pressure tactics in the Northwest and direct Minister Rustad to immediately meet with the Gitxsan and deal with them respectfully and in good faith.
“It’s obvious the B.C. Liberals were unprepared for the Supreme Court of Canada’s William decision and are still relying on unhelpful tactics despite words to the contrary,” said Fraser, “But the ball is in the premier’s court to start backing up her empty words with new actions that show she cares about creating opportunity for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”