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

Blaze destroys Chilliwack goat barn Tuesday night

Fire department reminds public about animals around heat sources

New bus route to ‘replace’ Greyhound along Trans-Canada Highway

Rider Express Transportation says they will soon begin a bus service from Winnipeg to Vancouver

Chilliwack Fair seeks volunteers to board of directors

Get involved in B.C.’s third oldest fair helping bridge the gap between rural and urban living

Around the BCHL: Merritt, Chilliwack and Coquitlam early-season surprises

Around the BCHL is a look at what’s going on in the league and throughout the junior A world.

Chilliwack ready for legalization with zoning and business bylaw changes

Cannabis retailers in Chilliwack will have to rezone property to open a storefront

VIDEO: First legal cannabis purchases as midnight strikes in eastern Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador was the first province to kick off the sale of cannabis, just after midnight local time

Boeser tallies in OT as Canucks beat Penguins 3-2

Vancouver wins without star rookie Pettersson

U.S. pot firm urges Trump to deny Canadian producers ‘competitive advantage’

The challenge for U.S. firms lies in the fact that while recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medicinal pot in 22 others, it remains illegal under federal law

Mayor of Kamloops says ‘history has been made’ with vote on B.C.’s lone pot shop

The store to be run by the province in B.C.’s Interior is opening Wednesday as pot sales become legal across Canada

Government says imprisoned Canadian terror suspects must face consequences

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale showed little sympathy Tuesday for such individuals who now want to return to Canada

How rules for inmate segregation in Canada will change under Bill C-83

Federal government proposing changes to rules around inmates in federal correctional institutions

Canada Post union issues strike notice; rotating strikes could begin Monday

Union says rotating strikes will begin if agreements aren’t reached with bargaining units

Carole James avoids questions on B.C.’s payroll tax (with video)

Green MLA Adam Olsen cites huge tax increase for local business

Most Read