Reconciliation is key at upcoming First Nations leaders’ and cabinet meeting, New Democrats say

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VICTORIA – B.C.’s New Democrats will be keeping close tabs as First Nations leaders and B.C.’s provincial cabinet come together for their second annual gathering in Vancouver, particularly as revelations regarding the Liberal government’s failure to properly consult with the Fort Nelson First Nation come to light.

“Reconciliation and meaningful consultation are imperative for trusting partnerships with First Nations, and I know from talking to many Aboriginal leaders that they are of central importance to them,” said Scott Fraser, New Democrat spokesperson for aboriginal relations and reconciliation.

The 2015 B.C. cabinet and First Nations leaders’ gathering begins Tuesday. B.C.’s cabinet ministers, deputy ministers and First Nations leaders will have the opportunity to meet face to face, open a dialogue and work toward reconciliation.

“From travelling to First Nations communities and talking to elected leaders, hereditary leaders and band members, I know there are a number of significant issues they need cabinet to address,” said Fraser.

“First and foremost, I’ll be looking to see how government addresses aboriginal title and rights. The Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in ruling provided government a way to collaboratively work with First Nations, through acknowledging and respecting rights and title. But unfortunately, we’re still waiting to see an approach from the government that embraces the Tsilhqot’in ruling.

“Second, for First Nations engaged in the treaty process, the province owes an explanation to their unilateral decision to cancel the appointment of George Abbott as the chief treaty commissioner last spring. The province needs to re-engage with all treaty partners to find a way to move forward together.

“Third, I’ll be watching for discussion on the need for safe and accessible transportation along the Highway of Tears. The issue of missing and murdered Aboriginal women was re-emphasized in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. Yet the province refuses to even fund a shuttle bus for the Highway of Tears, despite their own report on missing and murdered aboriginal women recommending exactly this.”

New Democrats are urging the province to make the most of this gathering and work with First Nations leaders toward reconciliation.