During the debate on Clause 5 of Bill 4, the Firearms Violence Prevention Act, I raised numerous concerns with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Hon. Mike Farnworth, regarding the potential impact and overreach on Indigenous hunting rights.
Our debate went more than an hour. In the end Minister Farnworth agreed to stand the clause down, reconsider the potential impact, and bring it back at a later date.
Debate on Bill 4 resumed today and Minister Farnworth brought an amendment to accommodate some of the arguments I made by adding a section directly referencing s.35 of the Canadian Constitution.
I’m grateful that Minister Farnworth has made this amendment and although it does not directly reference Indigenous hunting rights, Bill 4 is not a hunting Bill. As it stands there is still much more work to do in the Wildlife Act.
This process highlights how our democracy can work well when concerns are raised and a Minister chooses to pause, reflect and amend to accommodate those concerns.
I’d like to start my brief comments. I’ll keep my comments to this clause, and we’ll move through the other clauses fairly quickly. I just want to first raise my hands to the minister in gratitude for taking the time and the space to have a lengthy debate, a week ago yesterday, and the patience that he exhibited as we worked through some of the information that, I think, is not widely accessible to British Columbians.
We were able to account for the history as it has unfolded and the challenges that some of the laws that have been created in this chamber — the impacts that those laws have had on people. I really appreciate the debate that we had.
While I acknowledge that the amendment that’s being proposed doesn’t directly address or include references to specific hunting rights, it is important that what is being acknowledged is that this act cannot and should not infringe upon those treaty rights. As well, I think it’s important to acknowledge that this amendment provides additional protection where I think it should, and that’s in the legislative process rather than in the regulatory-making process.
I want to, at this point in the debate, acknowledge that the important changes that need to be made within the approach of the government, the approach of the agencies and ministries that are empowered by the government and the laws that we make in this House, need to be made in the Wildlife Act. And to provide further protection to the Douglas treaty hunting rights or the treaty 8 hunting rights, just Indigenous hunting rights in general, those need to be reflected in a different act, at a different time, in a different conversation. I look forward to engaging the government, as I know Indigenous leaders do and Indigenous hunters do, on those important conversations as any changes to the Wildlife Act are contemplated.
As I just mentioned, I think it is important that this is reflected in the legislation. I acknowledge the minister’s suggestion that this is going over and above. However, I think it’s important when we’re making these laws and this information is brought forward that the actions are taken, and that’s what we see here today.
I think one of the challenges that has informed my life personally is that when rights are established or rights are affirmed through these court processes, we do our best to not continue harassing those people that have those rights to then have to go back and defend and back and defend. That was one of the reasons why I pushed back so strongly on the suggestion that the appropriate place for these discussions, or some of these discussions, is in the courts. It’s very expensive, very timely and costly, both in terms of personal energy as well as feelings and, as well, the impact that it has on the communities, especially on the rights and title holders.
My final comments on this — and this is to the minister and to all of the government — is that I believe that this process we’re undertaking here today with this amendment is a reflection of how this place best works, where issues are raised, pauses are taken, reflections are made, amendments are tabled. We have this discussion, and then we move on to the next section, and we move on to the next piece of legislation. It’s in the spirit of that that I’ve got a tremendous amount of gratitude for the Government House Leader, for the minister responsible for this bill, Public Safety and Solicitor General. I thank him and the government for taking this time over the last week to reflect on this. It has given me the opportunity, as well, to reflect on this with the leaders of our community.
With that, I’m happy to support this amendment. I’m happy to continue the work that we have ahead of us in our relationship with government to ensure that future pieces of legislation that are brought to this chamber also reflect the important work that many of our ancestors, our S¸ELELW̱ÁÁN, those people that came before us, laid that pathway for us.
So I raise my hands, Minister, HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM, and thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak.