Second in a series
By KAREN OGEN-TOEWS
CEO, First Nations LNG Alliance
We introduced this series by talking about the role of First Nations in reconciliation and the fact that some are ready for it and some aren’t.
The reason we even need reconciliation is based on the shameful foundation of this country and province, in which Canada and British Columbia excluded First Nations from political, legal, cultural and economic rights.
Laws, policy and institutions were created to disallow First Nations from voting, dispossess First Nations from owning land, and to make them wards of the Crown on Indian Reserves.
Further institutions, such as the Indian Act governance system of band councils, were imposed on communities, and children were apprehended and forced into residential schools.
In the case of BC, the government maintained a position of denying Indigenous rights and title until the early 1990s. Much of the legal uncertainty we find in BC is based on these positions – positions that the courts found incorrect – culminating in the Tsilhqot’in decision of 2014, establishing Aboriginal Title in BC.
These policies have undermined our communities, and have made many of them unsustainable economically or otherwise.
Multigenerational trauma has led to some serious wellness issues in our communities. Poverty has meant half to three quarters of our people, depending on the community , have moved to urban centres, because their homeland can’t sustain them in the way it had for thousands of years. I could go on about the atrocities but won’t.
The point is: Both governments have a large role to rectify this situation. But their actions can’t be unilateral. They have to be in collaboration with the peoples they’ve impacted so drastically.
I applaud to the federal government for advancing:
- The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’s Inquiry;
- Supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations;
- Advancing Canada’s acceptance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP);
- Advancing an Indigenous Rights and Reconciliation Framework;
- Investing in education, clean water, languages, etc.
However, all this is just scratching the surface.
One can only see how the latest court decision on the Trans Mountain pipeline project decision found the federal government failed in proper consultation with First Nations.
Many companies and First Nations have commented on the fact that the government has left it up to industry and communities to sort these complex issues themselves. It’s clear now that governments are responsible for the respect of Indigenous rights and the path to reconciliation needs to be jointly created by First Nations and Governments.
The provincial government in BC is also trying to make headway in relation to reconciliation:
- Mandate letters have been given to all Ministers on how to implement the principles of UNDRIP;
- Treaty Negotiation mandates are being reviewed;
- Now approaches to reconciliation are being attempted;
- Agreements were reached with First Nations impacted by liquefied natural gas (LNG), to deal with environmental remediation and training issues.
Congratulations to the provincial government for its contributions to ensure a high level of support for the LNG Canada terminal and the associated Coastal GasLink pipeline. But this is only one project out of many in BC.
Clearly with 203 First Nations – most of them without treaties or other long-term agreements dealing with rights, title and jurisdiction — we have a long way to go with the BC government as well.
I believe we are at the beginning of reconciliation between First Nations and governments in Canada.
We can only hope that we will see more and more examples of success to ensure First Nations can enjoy a good quality of life in their home territory.
It will take concerted efforts to engage our citizens and British Columbians on these topics, and here at the Alliance, we hope to continue to contribute to the dialogue, particularly as it relates to economic issues.
Part One of the series: First Nations participation in reconciliation
Part Three: Industry’s role
- Part Four: The road ahead
(This item posted here 26 October 2018)