First Nations have hopes for B.C. New Democrats

B.C. government’s pledges are more than ‘hollow words’

For Musqueam Indian Band Coun. Wendy Grant-John, talk of reconciliation by the new British Columbia government brings to mind the memory of her relatives being expelled from their traditional territory to make way for what is now Stanley Park in Vancouver.

“My great-grandmother, along with the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh (nations), had houses there, had houses that were moved off to ensure that the newcomers had a park that they could relish in for the rest of their lives, to the detriment of our people,” Grant-John said Wednesday, gesturing from the convention centre on Vancouver’s waterfront towards the park.

“Those struggles are the ones that we continue today.”

As members of the province’s cabinet and First Nations communities meet ahead of the new legislative session this Friday, many Aboriginal leaders say the new government’s commitment to work with Indigenous Peoples feels different than the “hollow words” that have preceded past disappointments.

Ed John, grand chief of the First Nations Summit, said he is encouraged by Premier John Horgan’s pledge to govern based on the principles set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and to incorporate the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 calls to action.

“The province has been in dark places for far too long,” John said, addressing the fourth-annual leaders gathering. “We’ve waited a long time for the stars to align federally and provincially. And we are there.”

“But, we’ve been at moments like this in the past only to be denied,” he said, before adding that this time feels different.

READ MORE: First Nations, school district sign Aboriginal education agreement

READ MORE: A step towards truth and reconciliation in Central Saanich

The province’s willingness to acknowledge the underlying legal right to land and title held by First Nations, as laid out in the landmark Tsilhqot’in decision and other court rulings, gives him hope that the government’s promises are more than just empty words, John added.

Horgan said true reconciliation starts with genuine respect and that all of B.C. stands to benefit by listening to the “knowledge of millennia” held by Indigenous Peoples.

“For too long the words that have come from governments have been hollow to First Nations people,” he said, adding that he wants to deliver substance and action on the issues that matter to Aboriginal Peoples across the province.

“That’s my commitment to you today as we start this gathering, and I want you to hold me accountable,” he said, addressing the more than 560 people who had registered for the two-day event.

Dan Ashton, Indigenous relations critic for the Opposition Liberals, said he recognizes there was “the odd stumbling block” in the relationship between government and First Nations under the previous administration, but the overall trend was a positive one.

“I think our government took a lot of good steps in the right direction,” Ashton said.

“We all wish things would happen a lot quicker,” he added, lamenting the fact the courts had to be involved in resolving some disputes.

Chief Judy Wilson of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said while she is hopeful the province is on board, she will remain unconvinced until she sees First Nations people at the table with government leaders for matters that go beyond program and service issues.

Recognition of aboriginal land and title rights is essential to that progress, she said.

“Get rid of the consultation. It’s consent time now,” she said. ”That’s what we need to see on the ground.”

The B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders’ Gathering is taking place before the speech from the throne on Friday, launching the New Democrats’ first legislative session as government in more than 16 years.

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Alert Bay, Sointula Sailings affected by bad weather

BC Ferries is holding the Quadra Queen II in dock this morning

Minor Earthquake strikes near Port Hardy

M 4.7 182km SW of Port Hardy

Viral video shows deer killed on Snapchat in Campbell River

RCMP say they have identified those involved and are working with conservation officers

Vancouver Island Firefighters Association Fall Training Seminar

Port Hardy Fire Rescue hosted the Vancouver Island Firefighters Association Fall Training Seminar.

‘Sisters of Song’ choir brings joy to Port Alice singers

“Music is an extreme source of joy for a lot of people.”

VIDEO: Rare comic showing Superman’s 1st appearance to be auctioned

The 1938 comic features Superman hoisting a car over his head

David Cassidy, teen idol and ‘Partridge Family’ star, dies at 67

Cassidy announced earlier this year he had been diagnosed with dementia

Vigil held for woman whose remains were found on Shuswap farm

Family and friends remember Vernon resident Traci Genereaux and along with five other missing women

Brewers create anti-fascist ale

Not For Nazis Nut Brown Ale made in the Shuswap will be ready in time for Christmas

LETTER: Jumbo Valley is part of Ktunaxa territorial claim

Ktunaxa Nation Council responds to Tom Fletcher column

3,800-plant grow-op busted on First Nation reserve

Three men face charges after RCMP bust a large drug operation on the Soowahlie Reserve near Chilliwack

VIDEO: Government approves funding of $750,000 drug for B.C. woman

Approval comes one day after province announces funding for Soliris on a case-by-case basis

B.C. boy’s social media bid to get levidrome in the Oxford dictionary goes viral

‘It’s been five weeks and has totally blown up today.’

INTERACTIVE MAP: Follow the 2017 Tour de Rock

Follow the Tour de Rock, as they pedal more than 1,000 kilometres fundraising to combat paediatric cancer

Most Read