Last Thursday, I rose in the House to address the lack of funding for Indigenous communities participating in government consultations. For the last several years, a steadily increasing number of referrals have fallen on the desks of First Nations, creating an overwhelming, psychologically intense workload. Meaningful consultation requires communities to be well-resourced — the BC NDP must do better to ensure First Nations’ participation in government processes is awarded the value it deserves.
This statement is dedicated to my sisters, Joni and Heather, my nieces, nephews, cousins, and our relatives in W̱SÁNEĆ and all of our relatives working in bands and administrative offices in First Nations communities across the province and country. HÍSW̱ḴE SIÁM.
First, Mr. Speaker, a bit of business. This week, I became agitated in a committee for pay-transparency legislation. For that, I apologize to the Chair, from Richmond-Steveston; I apologize to my colleague in the official opposition, in Kelowna-Mission; and I also apologize to the Minister of Finance, her staff, Hansard staff, anyone watching and to my colleagues attending to their House duty. I try to raise my points without raising my voice, and this week, Mr Speaker, I failed.
I’ve noted several times the administrative and financial burden this government puts on Indigenous communities, through our consultation policies. The steady flow of referrals comes with meagre financial resources, time constrained to 30 days to respond, and a policy of silence being compliance.
My heart here is for my relatives who work so hard on behalf of our communities — one or two often showing up to meetings with government officials, sitting across the table from a half dozen technical staff from the ministry. Then only after a short break, they find themselves at yet another table, on a different topic and with the new group of government workers — always outnumbered, always out-resourced.
They inspire me to stand in here and demand government recognize the crushing workload that we’re creating and the psychological trauma that is sustained from it. We love our communities and we want to flourish. We are proud and passionate, and as the government referrals clog our inboxes, it’s overwhelming. When legislation is introduced, it creates another stream of consultation referrals. The minister introducing that legislation should be required to have the resources that can be provided to First Nations to do their technical and their legal work, because it makes for better work.