By Judith Lavoie,
July 12, 2009
Proposed legislation that the provincial government hopes will cement a new relationship with First Nations is being slammed by band members and elders around the province.
Forums organized by the First Nations Leadership Council on the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act are being held in aboriginal communities around B.C.
Although council members helped government draft the five-page discussion paper on the proposed new law recognizing aboriginal title, speakers at the dozen meetings held so far have made it clear some of the basic principles are unacceptable, said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs president.
A major concern is the plan to reorganize B.C.'s 203 bands into 30 regional indigenous nations, based on historical lines, something government believes is necessary if treaties are to be achieved.
"People don't think the province has any place in legislating how indigenous nations should be constituted," Phillip said. [Ed. - Damn straight, they don't.]
Speakers are also concerned that the form of aboriginal title offered in the yet-to-be-seen act will be weaker than the recognition of rights and title upheld by Canadian courts.
The concepts were originally supported by the
Forums will continue through the summer and a summary report is expected from a province-wide chiefs meeting at the end of August.
Aboriginal Relations Minister George Abbott said government will wait until First Nations have completed their consultations before taking the next step.
"If there are serious issues from First Nations perspective with reconstitution, then I am certainly open to thoughts, ideas and suggestions around what alternative mechanisms we might look at," he said.
Abbott said a consultative process could include all British Columbians. He said the bill remains "a hugely important part of government's agenda."
Premier Gordon Campbell initially announced the new law would be introduced before the election, but backed down after an outcry from the business sector, which was worried about the implications of granting aboriginal title and shared decision making.
NDP aboriginal relations critic Bob Simpson speculated government could be getting cold feet. "The major business organizations that reacted so vehemently have gone awfully quiet. There have got to be some signals from government that this is not as pending as previously thought," he said.
Simpson said First Nations will be "livid" if
"It would create a flashpoint situation in B.C."
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The "seismic change" for relations between First Nations and the province, which I wrote about here seems to be hitting some bumps in consultations with First Nations. It's too early for consultations with non-native British Columbians, says aboriginal affairs minister George Abbott.