I spoke to Bill 36 and support this initiative. We know how restrictive program funding is for First Nations communities. These funds will provide the flexibility for Indigenous leaders to invest, borrow and build capacity based on their priorities, not the priorities of the federal and provincial governments.
This has been a long-standing request of First Nations leaders that has been ignored by every previous provincial government. I’m thankful that this government has worked with Indigenous leadership to finally get this done!
I’m glad to have the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill 36, the Gaming Control Amendment Act, 2019.
As I said during the 2019 budget process, this was indeed an important investment that the B.C. government is making in Indigenous communities. It’s a long time in coming. In fact, from my understanding, this request for access to gaming funds has been a long-standing one made by Indigenous leaders of this generation and of past generations. Until the announcement in Budget 2019, successive governments have ignored that request of Indigenous leaders. We find that today we are now having the conversation and we’re having the debate about a bill that actually brings this commitment that the government made in the budget into action through this legislation.
It’s basically a $3 billion commitment over 25 years to First Nations communities — funds that First Nations are able to access for the first time in the history of this province, somewhere between $250,000 and $2 million, depending on the number of communities that have subscribed to the fund. This is money that is going to be able to be used for all types of activities that are needed in the communities.
There have been a lot of comments that have been made in the House so far this afternoon with respect to capacity-building. These are exactly the kinds of funds…. This is the kind of project that these funds can be used to support. We know, as someone who grew up on a reserve in the W̱SÁNEĆ territory in Tsartlip, that much of the funding that comes to First Nations communities is program funding. It’s very specifically dedicated to certain projects, to certain activities, and the reporting on that is very tight. The accountability on that money is very tight.
This proposal is a proposal that allows for First Nations communities to be able to access funding through the gaming activities in this province and to be able to invest that money and put that money where they see fit. This is an important funding opportunity for First Nations, and I don’t think that it should be downplayed, the commitment that is being made here.
This is money that is going to be consistent. It’s money that the communities can borrow against. It’s money that communities can invest on, and it’s certainly a welcome investment being made by the provincial government.
The relationship between the provincial government and the First Nations Leadership Council and First Nations communities is growing and it’s strengthening. I’m very thankful for that, and I’m thankful for the investment that’s being made through this legislation and that was made in Budget 2019.
That is the total sum of the comments that I have to this. I look forward to hearing the debate and the discussion as we go further through this in the committee stage. I just wanted to stand today and to reiterate my support and my thankfulness, my gratitude. I raise my hands to the government for working with First Nations communities who have been asking for this.
Unfortunately, this has been a request that has been long ignored and one now that we’re able to say has been able to come to fruition because the people on this side of the House listened and worked with First Nations to make this happen. So I raise my hands to government. I raise my hands to the process that has allowed this to come to fruition.