Each year the provincial government tables a Bill to adjust parks and protected areas in British Columbia. Mostly the Bill makes minor adjustments to boundaries, adding new lands, and makes name changes official.
Unfortunately, this edition of the Bill does not add any new Indigenous names to protected areas and in my second reading speech I note that the budget for parks and protected areas is not near enough.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill 3, the Protected Areas of British Columbia Amendment Act.
Recognizing that this is sort of an annual adjustment that happens within B.C. Parks system where staff kind of collect a variety of different amendments that can be made to the act in order to reflect, I think, where we’re at now with protected areas of British Columbia and making sure that our park system remains vital and vibrant and available to humans to enjoy but, more than that, to ensure that humans are not disrupting every square centimetre of this province. It is a protection, I think, for us to ensure that there are places left for flora and fauna that are non-human.
With that, I think that it’s important that not only speaking to the member’s comments before — that these are incredible and important places for humans to get out and experience nature and enjoy some time, do some forest bathing, get in and feel the positive impacts that nature can have on our mental and physical well-being — but that also the biodiversity that is represented in parks must be protected for our ecological well-being, as protections against severe weather impacts like we have seen in this province over the last year and longer with respect to climate change.
The legislation before us, like the previous iterations of this legislation, is definitely something that I and my colleague in the B.C. Green caucus definitely support. I think that it’s important for us to be taking the lands that are donated to the province of British Columbia and adding them to parks and continuing to increase the vibrancy of our parks and ecosystems across the province.
I think that it’s important also to note that part of the work that has been done in past iterations of this bill is a naming exercise that has reflected the traditional Indigenous place names that are associated with the areas within various provincial parks. It’s unfortunate that this year we don’t see a real engagement in that, and that could be a lack of Indigenous nations stepping forward.
However, I do have a number of parks in my riding, and I think that what I would like to see going forward…. I made it known to the ministry that there are processes that, when given the opportunity, I’d be very happy to help with in order to continue to encourage the renaming of those parks or the addition. As we’ve talked about in the past, this shouldn’t be seen as removing anything from the parks but adding context and adding understanding to these incredible places.
One of the things that British Columbians often do when they visit a park is they get to know the place a little bit better. They get to know the history of the place a little bit better.
We have seen, as an example, ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱/John Dean Provincial Park, an additive process where this government recognized the long history that the W̱SÁNEĆ people had with that sacred mountain that we know as ȽÁU,WELṈEW̱. We were able to both honour that long history of that place and the sacredness of it for the Indigenous people in the area and, as well, recognize John Dean for donating that treasure at the heart of the Saanich Peninsula and making the contribution. Indeed it remains, well, one of the last places on the Saanich Peninsula that has any substantive forest remaining on it. It is there, because we have it added to a park.
We get the opportunity of learning about the history, learning about the flood story and that place of refuge for the W̱SÁNEĆ people. Indeed, uniquely, it has now become a place of refuge for all people living in W̱SÁNEĆ on the Saanich Peninsula. As a park, it is also a place of refuge to…. You can almost get away from the buzzing of the airplanes if you go up there. Almost. It’s very close to an airport, so it’s difficult to do that, but it is something that I think needs to be celebrated.
I look forward to working with the minister and staff within the ministry. There are a number of parks in Saanich North and the Islands that I’d be happy to engage in the process right now for next year, if the minister is going to be bringing a similar bill forward in future sessions. I can identify at least two parks right now that would benefit from adding to the story that we tell about the parks in our ridings.
I’m certain that there are members in this Legislature that, if given the opportunity to engage, could use this opportunity, in fact, to engage Indigenous Nations in their ridings and use it as an opportunity to build relationships and be that advocate, but also be that meaningful connection between the communities that we represent and the minister and the ministry staff.
I think one of the other things that I’d like to highlight here — and this is something that I’ve brought to the attention of the ministry in the past, and it seems like a good opportunity now to just highlight — is that while we can go through the necessary process of adding additional lands to parks, it’s really important that the next step in the spring session, the budget step, is that we see a marked increase in the investment that British Columbians are making into our parks system.
We can celebrate daily or monthly or annually the fact that we have a large number of hectares of lands protected under this act. However, if we’re not investing the appropriate level of funding into the park system, then we start to see the erosion of the value of those lands. I start to think about some of the parklands in our territory, and this isn’t just provincial. I will say that, because I think that the provincial government has been doing a better job, but without the adequate amount of resources, there’s not the attention that needs to be made — to fuel loads, as an example — within our parklands.
There’s one non-provincial park in particular that I’m thinking about in my riding that could use a much larger amount of funding in order to deal with the really huge increase of combustible material that’s on the ground and poses a threat to the people living in those neighbourhoods.
My hope is that I can be a useful advocate on behalf of the minister in advocating for his government to increase the budget to the park system, so that we can ensure that the trails are not only being built so people can have access to it, but that the trails that are built are not unnecessarily damaging sensitive ecosystems — which, if they’re not constructed quite properly, can have, actually, a deleterious effect on the ecosystems of those parks — and that the annual maintenance budget reflects what’s needed in terms of our values here in this House, on behalf of the parklands that we have set aside from our extractive industries and our extractive activities.
With that, I’m happy to support this bill. I will be happy to support a larger budget. I think, through the minister to his colleague, the Minister of Finance: I’ll even be happier to support a larger budget for parklands and the proper maintenance and upkeep and construction of trails within our parks.
I look forward to engaging the minister and the ministry on a few of the parks in my riding that could benefit from adding their historic and the proper place names to those places so that we are remembering and acknowledging and celebrating the entire history of this province in a good way.
With that, I take my seat.
Thank you for this opportunity. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.