Estimates 2023: Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation

Jun 22, 2023 | 42-4, Blog, Estimates, Governance, Indigenous, Legislature, Sessions, Video | 0 comments

I cover a lot of ground in this hour long session in Budget Estimates with Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Hon. Murray Rankin.

We highlight funding for Indigenous language recovery, the use of civil injunctions to protect industrial projects against Indigenous rights and title, the impact of cumulative impacts of provincial decisions (specifically the Yahey decision), access to the property transfer tax as a revenue source for Indigenous Nations, and the BC NDP’s lack of use of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee.


A. Olsen:
Thank you for this opportunity to ask the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation….

Normally, first out of the gate would be a member of the official opposition. I have been working with my colleague from Vancouver-Langara to…. I’ve got the first hour or so of questions. The member will be taking over from there.

I appreciate the extensive introduction to this budget estimate from the minister. I appreciate the journey we’re walking towards, a reconciliatory journey that we’re walking together here. I recognize the investments the government has made, the relationships, the legislation that has been put on the table.

The spirit of my questions today is going to be…. It’s, I think, pretty heavy stuff I want to go through. The content I’m going to be covering is not, I think, to ignore the fact that there are a lot of good things happening. I believe that it’s my role, in here, to test and to push and to ask these questions.

I want to make one minor clarification with respect to the $6 million per year in the core for language. The minister quite rightly talked about the impact of the investments this government has made into Indigenous languages. One of the key aspects of colonization was the removal of language, the removal of culture through language.

The minister suggested that it was the parents and the grandparents that were teaching the children the language. I would like to say…. In my family, it’s the child that’s teaching the parent and the grandparent language. That is, I think, to some extent, an indication of the success of this program. It’s being taught in the W̱SÁNEĆ school, at ȽÁU,WELṈEW school.

My daughter Ella is in a language nest program, in an immersion program. Oftentimes if I have to say something in the Legislature and I don’t know if I’ve got it quite right, I’ll text her and ask her: “What is it that I should be saying here, kid?” And I’ll get it back. For my late uncle TEMOSEṈŦET’s eulogy, I had some SENĆOŦEN language that I needed to get clarified. I got it clarified with Ella. Then I asked it of one of my Elders, and he said: “Wow, she got it right on. She nailed it.”

There is a wonderful story that’s being told here, Minister, about those language investments. I think that it is important to acknowledge it.

I think, in the spirit of how the minister has framed the budget for the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation — the provincial responsibility to deal with the colonization, to create partnerships, to support the advancement of reconciliation — I want to start by asking a question that I asked a different minister during question period last week.

I asked the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General about the provincial funding of the community in­dustry response group, C-IRG, as it’s known. It’s an elite RCMP unit designed…. In part, the work that it has been doing is to clear Indigenous land offenders, to remove them from their own territories. The Minister of Public Safety, as he has done in the past, referenced the rule of law. He noted the RCMP have a responsibility to enforce a legal injunction.

Of course, this is a blurring of some confusing and complex legal lines, really. While the minister seeks refuge in the reality that corporations have sought civil injunctions to protect their interests and that this government’s militarized police unit, the C-IRG, is dealing with the resistance to industrial development, the minister ignores that there’s a remarkable difference between corporate interests and Indigenous rights — the Indigenous rights that are at the core of the provincial responsibility that the minister’s budget is being used to address.

Arthur Manuel called the use of injunctions against Indigenous people in their own territory “a legal billy club.” A study in October 2019, Land Back: A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper by the Yellowhead Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University, looked at 100 injunctions and found that 76 percent of the injunctions filed against First Nations by corporations were granted, while First Nations were successful against corporations only 19 percent of the time. What this tells us is that the courts continue to prioritize the economic harm to corporations of lost profits over the economic harm to Indigenous peoples of devastated livelihoods.

I think one of the clear examples of this is in both the Trans Mountain and the CGL, Coastal GasLink, pipelines with respect to salmon. This is really a reference to the irreparable-harm and balance-of-convenience tests that are required to obtain an injunction.

In the minister’s mind, what takes precedence: corporate interests or Indigenous rights?

Hon. M. Rankin:
I want to start at the outset by thanking my colleague from Saanich North and the Islands. I totally respect the tough questions that it’s his duty to ask, and I appreciate just as well the very supportive things and his constant support for the work of this ministry in trying to make a difference in Indigenous peoples’ lives. I salute that and acknowledge that at the outset.

I also want to say to Ella: how proud you must be.

I had a similar circumstance arise, I can remember, down in the Hall of Honour…. We had an Indigenous Languages Day, and a young woman — I don’t know; she might have been 17 — stood up and gave this remarkable speech in Hul’q’umi’num’. It was just so moving for me to see that.

I’ve seen, of course, Elders speak at length in their language, but it’s equally, if not more, impressive when you see a young person do that. It’s a tribute to the work of so many Elders and so many communities who see the importance of this and who don’t want their culture to disappear, their languages to become extinct, as they are, frankly, on the verge of being in some parts of our prov­ince. It’s really exhilarating to see that.

It gives me great personal pride — not to blow the horn of our chief executive officer, Tracey Herbert, from the First Peoples Cultural Council — to go back to Ottawa and have people like Minister Rodriguez, the federal Minister of Heritage, who’s responsible for the Indigenous languages program, to just, without prompting, sing the praises of the pioneering work of our B.C. Crown corporation, the only Indigenous-led Crown corporation in, I think, the country.

It’s just exhilarating to see, and it’s something British Columbians should be very, very proud of. So I just want to thank the member for that recognition.

The second part of the member’s question related to, firstly, the Community-Industry Response Group and the rule of law — in particular, talking about the role of injunctions and, I think, thoughtfully drawing a distinction between criminal and civil injunctions, and, perhaps, a report at the Yellowhead Institute, which I’ve also read. It talks about the differential between those injunctions successfully sought by one group and less successfully by another.

Of course, we all know that the injunctions are granted at the behest of a corporation or of an Indigenous group or of someone in the community, applying the test that the member talked about: the irreparable-harm, balance-of-convenience test, which is the law on injunctions.

The fundamental point is that the decision-making is for an independent judiciary. It’s not, I think, germane for me to give my views on how those rights are prioritized. It’s a court that has to make that determination. We have an independent court system. As in all actions involving police, which was the threshold question about this Community-Industry Response Group, a threshold question involves the role of a government and a police service and then, ultimately, the courts.

Of course, we would all accept that it’s not the government that directs the police on how to do their work, and it certainly isn’t our role to tell an independent judiciary how it should weigh the interests that are always at issue in this irreparable-harm versus balance-of-convenience test.

A. Olsen:
To be clear, I’m not asking the minister to instruct police. I’m not asking the minister to instruct the courts. The minister is responsible for the implementation of the Declaration Act, the relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

When we have legal work and analysis done that shows very clearly the tests that are used to obtain injunctions are so heavily favouring industry over Indigenous rights — in some cases, Indigenous treaty rights, the rights that we’ve protected — the questions I’m asking are not for the minister to direct the court or to direct the police.

As the person in our government who is responsible, and who has the budget that we’re debating today, for ensuring that Indigenous people can get the justice that they need for their inherent rights, which have existed on the landscape long before the corporation was even considered…. What I’m seeking is whether or not the minister sees the pattern that was illuminated by the red paper and maybe has comment about whether this demonstrates that the current laws and actual practices with how injunctions are sought is not consistent with the Declaration Act and the commitments that we’ve made to Indigenous people.

Hon. M. Rankin:
The tests used for injunctions that the member refers to are the tests that have been used in civil cases from trade union confrontation in various places, including, of course, Indigenous rights and title cases that come forward.

The member refers to a study which I also had the benefit of reading. I’m not in a position to evaluate the conclusions that that study reaches. I found it intriguing, and I must confess, disturbing, but again, it’s social science research. I’ve learned it often depends on who’s doing the research and what questions they ask. The world may not always be as clear as researchers trying to make a point would make it.

I’m not here to malign the report. It could be excellent. I just would rather not comment on the merits of a report. I don’t know the methodology that led to that result. Our ministry isn’t, of course, responsible for the budget of the police. But what our ministry is responsible for under the Declaration Act, which the member referred to, is trying to achieve unity amongst nations, trying to avoid some of the conflicts, as well, that existed.

The one the member alluded to with one pipeline conflict involved some of the hereditary chiefs in Wet’suwet’en territory. We have invested considerably in trying to create unity within that community so that Wet’suwet’en title, which we accept to exist on the land, can be implemented in an effective way. That, of course, is all about governance. It’s all about ensuring that the resources are there to take on the responsibility of governance. That is where we think we can make the best contribution.

We would want to avoid the conflicts that the member alludes to, because we think a better path is always through negotiation and resolution informally of those disputes.

A. Olsen:
I thank the minister for his response. I think where we are…. I recognize the challenge of alluding to a study. We’re only one step better, because the minister has actually read the study. We could have been in a much worse situation if the minister said: “Well, I’ve never seen the study.” So at least the minister has read the study, and I appreciate that.

I think I used the example in the study because it reflects what the experience of Indigenous people — some Indigenous people, at least — is when they interact with the legal instruments that are available for all of the public to use.

The public interest. Interestingly, I ran into the public interest through the TMX. I was an intervener in that. They had no interest. There was no desire to consider my fishing rights. It talked about convenience and interests and the language, the public interest.

I was definitely…. The intervention I made on behalf of the TMX was at the front end of the process. It wasn’t at the legal end, standing in front of the pipeline. I intervened because I wanted to be a part of the process at the beginning. But I can tell you that there was no desire to consider the fishing rights of the W̱SÁNEĆ people as part of the broader Canadian public interest.

This is the point I’m making, that Indigenous people…. It’s the point that Arthur Manuel made. It’s the point that the authors of this study make. It’s that Indigenous rights and Indigenous people are inconvenient when they’re not signing the agreements but when they’re standing up for their rights. That’s the way that, at the very least…. If you just take the social science study for face value, and you see those statistics being so heavily weighted towards recognizing that if a corporation….

We saw this with the injunctions that happened at Fairy Creek. The fact that the corporation could lose money and could lose standing was the thing that was more important than anything else. That’s the public interest that is being protected, the status quo. Up until very recently, up until 2019, when we passed the Declaration Act, Indigenous people were clearly outside the public interest. When I intervened in the TMX — and in fact, I complained to the panel — we were, and are, viewed as outside the public interest.

Would the minister agree that the requirement these injunctions are based on — the rules that we create, the laws that we create in this place — are what the courts have to go on?

Ultimately, we don’t direct the courts in their decisions, but we create the statutes with which the courts make their decisions. Would the minister agree that the public interest requirement in injunctions is biased against Indigenous people, First Nations people?

Hon. M. Rankin:
I wish my colleague the Attorney General were here, because I think many of the things that the member has asked about, really significant issues, are in the purview of that ministry.

I want to say, though, I think education — I’ve always said — is one of the key things we have to address. I was talking to Kim Baird, who is a former Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation. She told me she’s doing work that seems to be very well respected within this House, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia — from the dining room staff to the Clerk to the Speaker’s office — to ensure that this legislative branch of government understands the history, the culture of Indigenous people, and the struggles and the injustices.

I have the opportunity to speak to the judicial justices, I think they’re called — what we used to call justices of the peace — in a couple of weeks. They’ve asked me to come and talk about the work of reconciliation. But I do so with great respect for the fact that they are an independent branch of government.

In terms of the judiciary, I think the member would agree with me that some of the great advances that have been achieved by Indigenous peoples in pouring meaning into the words “Aboriginal rights and title” in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, come from the courts. The courts have made enormous strides in pouring meaning into those words of the constitution. There must be thousands of cases, literally, where those words have been given meaning.

I think the judiciary gets it. I think the judiciary is on a path, like the rest of us are, to try to understand better the difficulties of reconciliation. And that applies to the tests the courts use, just as it applies to the laws that we interpret. The member is right. Some of the things that judges grapple with are statutes that are created in this House. But some of the tests that they’re applying, like the one he’s alluding to, are common-law tests that have been around, nuanced, perhaps, forever.

Whether those tests will be evolved by the courts, as they’ve evolved so many other things, to better address the balance, as the member refers to, the rights of Indigenous people as against corporate interests, as against the community’s interests — those, I think, are things that the courts, as an independent institution, are going to evolve.

But I go back to where I started. Education is going to be the key. I’m proud of the work our government has done to educate the public service on Indigenous rights. And I think that this institution, the Legislature, deserves credit for its efforts to step into that difficult conversation that needs to take place. And I’m really confident that the judiciary will rise to the same challenge.

A. Olsen:
Thank you to the minister for the response. Indeed, the exercise that I believe I’m engaging in here today is exactly that. It’s exactly in the spirit of education. I am definitely going to be raising some of these issues with the Attorney General. I’ll be raising them with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General as well.

As the minister knows, following my question, we had a conversation. Because I believe, actually, that this institution has done things in a way for a long time. Our judiciary has done it in a way for a long time. And these systems, we know, were not set up to be inclusive. In fact, they were set up in their design…. The Indian Act, for example, the federal legislation, was designed to undo everything that we were talking about earlier and the language is now putting back together again.

Part of the reason why I’m raising this issue here, and why I’m going to continue to raise this issue, is because when I asked the question about a specific police action in a part of our province to another minister, and the response came back to say, “Well, this is about the rule of law,” the point that I want to make is that it’s more nuanced than that. To lead the people of British Columbia to believe that it’s less nuanced or that it’s more simple than it actually is, is actually counter to the comment that the minister just made with respect to education. We are being less informative if we’re reducing this to simplicities.

It’s not simple. What’s going on, on the landscape, the Trans Mountain pipeline, the fishing rights that come with the name SȾHENEP, the locations of the SW̱ALET that are existing there — none of that’s easy. None of it should be seen as a simple struggle. It’s a challenging one, and that’s part of the reason why I’m taking the time here to just say that there is an aspect of this that has to do with the declaration and our journey of reconciliation.

That’s the part that I’m laying at the feet of the minister. I’m not laying the part that’s for the Attorney General or the part that’s for the Solicitor General at the feet of the Minister of Indigenous Relations. Although I think the minister’s relationship with his colleagues can assist in working towards making…. We saw some changes through some judicial orders with respect to the teams for violent and repeat offenders.

We see the government of B.C. has tools at their disposal, and what I’m imploring the government of B.C. to do is use them where appropriate. Of course, we don’t want to be directing police. There’s independence in these…. We also have a role in making sure these systems are working for all British Columbians. They have not been designed for all British Columbians, and this is the journey that we’re on together.

I’m going to move on to a different topic. So if the minister has a comment on this, I’ll leave it to the minister. Otherwise, I can move on to another topic.

Hon. M. Rankin:
I just want to say to the member that I remember vividly the day in which the debate he refers to took place in the Legislature. I think he’ll agree with me that sometimes, question period may not be the most, to use his word, nuanced environment in which to have the dialogue that he seeks.

Sometimes, I’ve seen some members, maybe even me, reduce things to simplicity. Even slogans sometimes occur in question period, which is not conducive to the kind of thoughtful dialogue that the member seeks and is seeking through the estimates process to do so. I respect that. But I think he would agree with me that sometimes the forum isn’t conducive to that kind of dialogue.

A. Olsen:
Actually, if I may just correct the minister: or ever conducive to dialogue at all, actually. I wouldn’t call that dialogue.

Thank you for indulging me on this. I’ll just leave it at that, and I’ll continue the work to raise these issues with respect to the enforcement of injunctions and the relationship between resource extraction, resource development and Indigenous rights.

I want to move to cumulative impacts. This is something that has been, obviously, a growing area of discussion. The Yahey case was remarkable because, for the first time, the B.C. Supreme Court found that the cumulative impacts of development approved by the provincial government, slicing and dicing territories into ever-smaller fragments, infringed on the Blueberry River First Nation’s Treaty 8 rights.

As Mandell Pinder described on their website, “For the first time, a court has found that (1) a province breached treaty promises by permitting the cumulative impacts of industrial development on treaty rights and (2) infringed a treaty by taking up lands to such an extent that there are insufficient lands for the meaningful exercise of treaty rights.” The provincial government did not appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and negotiated a settlement with the Blueberry River First Nation.

Virtually all aspects of the Yahey decision can be applied to W̱SÁNEĆ, the territory I’m from — the treaty text; the provincial permitting processes; the provincial belief that the treaty gave them the right to take up all the land, even to the point of there being no land left to undertake treaty-protected rights; and the ever-frustrating circular arguments, as the court called it, the “persistent pattern of redirection.” That continues even after the Yahey decision.

One quick example, with respect to the Bamberton quarry project in the Saanich Inlet in the W̱SÁNEĆ territory. According to the Environment Minister, we don’t need to worry about the environment because the regulation of mining in the Mines ministry is good enough. However, the Mines ministry will refer you to the Environment ministry because they regulate and enforce environmental protection. Round and round we go on that.

When we look at aerial photographs of the W̱SÁNEĆ territory, there is no other conclusion than that the rights protected by the Douglas treaty, of which I am a member, with the same language as Treaty 8 — the right to fish as formerly and specific hunting rights, rights that have been challenged and successfully defended in the B.C. Supreme Court, the Canadian Supreme Court — have been breached by the province by permitting the cumulative impacts of residential, commercial and industrial development, and the Douglas treaty rights have been infringed because the province has taken up lands to such an extent that there are insufficient lands for meaningful exercise of treaty rights.

The entire territory has been divided and subdivided and sold fee simple to private property owners. It is en­tirely an urbanized territory. The federal government divided our governance into councils that served their purpose, creating governing bodies that have no reflection of our traditional governing bodies. There are no trees for us to log, no fish for us to catch, no gas for us to frack, no coal for us to mine. There is, however, potential produce for us to grow, a faint light in the tunnel. The economy in our territory is real estate. That’s it.

The ministry is working to develop a new fiscal framework with Indigenous nations. It will largely be focused on natural resource development, as we heard at the beginning comments by the minister. There is no forest industry for W̱SÁNEĆ to partner with, and that was, as the minister stated, where the new fiscal framework begins. So what’s the plan for W̱SÁNEĆ?

Hon. M. Rankin:
Thank you to the member for the question on cumulative impacts, how it applies in W̱SÁ­NEĆ territory, as well as, of course, up in the northeast where the Yahey decision he refers to was decided.

I’d like to start by saying that I could not be prouder of our team at MIRR and team government, if I can call it that, from all the ministries who spent 18 months doing what many people in this House told us we ought not to do. Many people told us we should just appeal and get on with it. We said: “No. We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to negotiate a just resolution.”

The court, as the member properly pointed out, found that we had breached Treaty 8, a historic treaty from the turn of the century — that is to say, the 19th to 20th century — and that we had provided insufficient lands for the exercise of treaty rights. That’s what the court said after a decision of I don’t know how many hundred pages.

We said: “We’ve got to figure out how to do this together. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to sit down. We’ve got to negotiate. We’ve got to figure out how we can heal the land, how we can find better planning mechanisms in the future for First Nations to feel that their lands and their rights are at the centre of decision-making. We’ve got to find ways to revenue-share. We’ve got to find ways to find a better balance and alignment of values.”

That isn’t easy work. That was extraordinarily difficult work. Our team was very much involved in that work, but I would be remiss if I didn’t praise the talented officials from other ministries — Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation; Environment; and so many others — that got us to this place.

We settled that lawsuit, and I’m so proud of it — not just with the litigant, the Blueberry River First Nation, with former Chief Yahey, but with other Treaty 8 nations. We are on a path to a much better place to deal with cumulative impacts.

Those cumulative impacts, the member has properly acknowledged, aren’t limited to one part of our province. They’re a fact in many, many parts of our province. It has to do with colonization. It has to do with industrial growth. It has to do with population demands. And we do need to acknowledge that in doing so, there are Indigenous rights, First Nations people who live there and Aboriginal rights and title that are involved. In the case of the member, Douglas treaty, but areas where there are no treaties and where those rights are still at the fore. So we have work to do, and it’s difficult work. It’s work that we’re rolling up our sleeves to do, will continue to do.

He’s given a specific illustration, as well, about a conflict that’s currently at the fore, which is relating to the quarry at Bamberton and the expansion sought by the Malahat Nation, a nation that is seeking to enter into treaty. Other nations in the territory are opposed to that expansion. That nation, the Malahat Nation, sees it as part of its economic future.

It is my colleague the Minister of Environment that has to look at whether this project should be reviewed under the Environmental Assessment Act. I think I should say no more than that because he is the statutory decision–maker. It’s under his purview that that decision will ultimately be made.

A. Olsen:
I’m now sorry I even referenced the circular wash-and-rinse cycle that Indigenous people find themselves in when they engage this government sometimes. I just used the example of the endless cycle between Mines and Environment about who’s going to protect the environment.

I recognize that might have distracted, now, from the actual point of my question, which was the cumulative impacts of commercial, residential and industrial development that has entirely suffocated the rights — and infringed and breached, and all of the language the courts used for Yahey — of the W̱SÁNEĆ people.

As a result of this provincial government’s decisions, I can’t harvest clams in my territory, because our beaches are perpetually closed. I can’t harvest salmon in our territories, because our fishing areas are virtually empty. And when there are fish, it’s illegal. If I chose to fish in those times when there were closures, then I’d be criticized for that. We can’t hunt any longer, because there are no en­closed fields, and there are no areas for us to hunt.

I would argue this is not about saying our situation is worse, but I would say that in a very similar, very real situation to what Yahey is facing, the W̱SÁNEĆ people — and the other Douglas treaty nations here that James Douglas went into an agreement with — are facing an exact same situation.

One of the ways that this provincial government exerts its sovereignty is through the taxation of land ownership. There are many real estate transactions that happen every year in our territory.

Before I ask my question, I think I need to be very clear: I’m not suggesting an increase in land taxes for my constituents — the deepfakes are going to be all over this — nor am I suggesting that there be any threat to fee simple land ownership. Okay? That’s not what I’m suggesting with this question. I want to just insulate my question from anybody who might want to take it there.

What I am asking about is whether or not this minister, the Minister of Finance, previous ministers or the ministry ever considered sharing a portion of the property transfer tax and the speculation and vacancy tax with the W̱SÁ­NEĆ people, in recognition that the resource that’s extracted from the land in W̱SÁNEĆ is no longer fish, clams, deer and many other products which formed our economy. It is now real estate transactions.

It feels to me this is an elegant, if not far too simplistic solution for the very real dilemma that this provincial government faces, in the reality that we did accept the Supreme Court of B.C.’s decision in Yahey.

Hon. M. Rankin:
I’ll just reinforce what my colleague didn’t say. He did not say in his questions that this was about raising property taxes. He did not say that this was intended to be a reflection of the need to address fee simple.

So lest there be any doubt, I want to reinforce what he did not say. I know he would be adamant if I didn’t do justice to that in his question, because it was a much more thoughtful question. It was about how the new fiscal framework that we’re trying to elaborate could apply in the territory that he comes from on the peninsula. But I think it’s fair to say we are trying to elaborate a whole bunch of changes across the province.

Now, the current focus of our new fiscal framework is on forestry, and there’s a very good reason for that. The member has been advocating very effectively for the what our government inherited: a very atrophied revenue-sharing under what are called FCRSAs. The member has done a lot to educate me on the injustice of that. We have an interim step along the way to a new fiscal framework.

We have made some significant strides. I think most people would acknowledge that generally, the revenues that are shared are double — sometimes more, sometimes a little less, but about that — usually, across the province. But that’s only an interim step. We always said it was only an interim step. What we are doing is going across the province. We’ve had, I think, 91 meetings or so with First Nations rights and title holders, as well as Indigenous leadership groups, trying to understand what a new fiscal framework would mean to them beyond forestry.

I would bring to the member’s attention two key aspects of our action plan. Action No. 1.4 says we will: “Co-develop with Indigenous peoples a new distinctions-based fiscal relationship and framework that supports the operation of Indigenous governments, whether through modern treaties, self-government agreements or advancing the right to self-government through other mechanisms. This work will include collaboration with the government of Canada.”

Secondly, action plan action No. 1.5, which I think is very germane. We will: “Co-develop and implement new distinctions-based policy frameworks for resource revenue-sharing and other fiscal mechanisms with Indigenous peoples.” We are doing that important work now. We’ve heard a clear message of change from the work that we’ve done so far — that that new fiscal framework must support a fundamental shift in the way we work together as governments and support an integrated, rights-based approach to decision-making, stewardship and benefit-sharing.

When the member refers to the main industry, perhaps, in his area — I don’t mean to caricature it — involving property, certainly not involving hunting or forestry anymore…. I know his community well, so I would agree it’s not that. We recognize that we have to be nimble, and we have to recognize that the fiscal relationships in one part of the province are not those in another part of the province.

We have started with forestry because it means so much to so many. But we acknowledge that work is going to have to be more flexible to deal with the realities of an urbanized environment or suburban environment. That is the work that we’re doing.

A. Olsen:
Thank you to the minister for his response and for further adding clarity.

Although, I’ll just say that if the minister is advancing this idea that I know has not been entirely a foreign idea…. It’s the one around the property transfer tax and the speculation and vacancy tax. It’s one that I advanced with former Finance ministers and with others.

If there’s any need for justification for it, if the minister ever needs justification for it, I think that it’s important to acknowledge to the Minister of Finance and to those around the Treasury Board table that the reality of this is going to be, I think, largely seen by the province as a loss to the province’s general revenue.

I encourage the minister. I encourage the Minister of Finance and this government to view this as a benefit. The reality of it is that that money…. I have lived in W̱SÁNEĆ my entire life. We love that place. We’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to invest immediately into our home. That’s what we do. When COVID hit, we bought food for the people. We fed the people. That is the inclination of our leaders. That is the teaching of our culture.

When you apply that to increased access to revenue, what ends up happening is that the W̱SÁNEĆ people be­come valuable investors into the region and into the area. I can assure the minister, and I can assure the Finance Minister, that that money will be immediately reinvested right back into the community. And the provincial government, in all the ways the provincial government generates revenue from those activities, will see the benefit of that immediately.

This need not be viewed as a loss to the provincial government. This is simply an interim step that allows for the W̱SÁNEĆ people to fully realize their inherent and treaty rights to self-determination to be economically engaged in their territories and not kept off to the side, not to be those people over there on the other side of the ditch but to be investing in their communities with the resources to be able to do it.

I really see the fiscal framework…. When I heard this project was happening, I was elated, because really, the Declaration Act was the first step. It was the policy area. But in order for Indigenous people to be really, truly, fully engaged in this journey of reconciliation, we need the resources. I brought it up in the supplemental budget estimates. We need the resources to be able to meet the provincial government and the federal government where they’re at. We don’t. We show up to meetings….

The minister responded to all of the different ministries that were involved in getting the Yahey case settled. The only people that failed to be mentioned in that list were the handful of people on the other side of the table that were meeting the ministries at the table. It’s interesting that when Indigenous leaders sit at the table, there are always dozens of government people on the other side of the table, and there are just a couple of the technical people sitting there going: “Oh my goodness. How am I going to deal with this now?”

I don’t want to make any statements leading anybody to conclude that the minister wasn’t grateful for the Blueberry people on the other side. That’s not what I’m saying here.

What I’m saying is that we need to be able to have the resources to meet the government where it’s at so that we can be effective partners. So that we’re not complaining about 30-day timelines for notifications, because 30 days is long enough, because we’ve got a robust internal and administrative capacity to meet the government where it’s at. That’s exciting to me, and that is what I see as the potential of this.

What we need to do is move it past the simple resource agreements. There are not trees everywhere. There’s not gas everywhere. There’s not coal everywhere. There’s not the resource extraction everywhere. In some places, there are these resources that we don’t really view as resources, but they are. In this case, the property transfer tax is a huge resource that’s generated on our land every single day. In order for W̱SÁNEĆ people to be able to realize their sovereignty, there should be access to that.

I’m just going to end with this, and then I’m going to turn it over to my colleague from Vancouver-Langara. This is just around….

I’m just going to shift gears here, Minister, to the use of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee.

I’ve written a letter. I just want to leave my time in budget estimates here to implore the government once again to please use the Aboriginal Affairs Committee for what it could be very useful for, and that is the high-level policy discussions that ensure that our government, when we are meeting with Indigenous nations, is truly able to meet in as little-fractured a way as we possibly can. I think that’s the benefit of that committee work.

I think we saw an example with the Tsawwassen treaty — letters flying back and forth, committee used, not committee. We’re going to meet in the Douglas Fir; we’re not going to meet in the Douglas Fir. We’re going to have…. We did meet in the Douglas Fir. Then we had the Chief there, and then budget estimates start back up again while the leadership is in the room.

It was, frankly, something that we could have avoided, had the minister, who has the right to make these deci­sions about policy, brought his colleagues from the opposition into that decision and had that discussion. We could have had the discussion with the nations that have treaties. We could have had the discussion with them in this room and at the committee stage.

When we have guests in our House, as we’re always taught in our longhouses, you act as a family, a strong family. That’s the way that you demonstrate that you’re a good partner. I really felt that we didn’t act as a good partner. It didn’t end up that way. I think we were trying to, but it didn’t end up that way.

I really think that the use of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee for high-level policy discussions that can build consensus across party lines, recognizing…. No matter what, there is always going to be another government. No matter what, we can never predict who that government is going to be.

Indigenous people and Indigenous leaders need to know that when they’re approaching this government, no matter who is in the Premier’s seat, they can count on us to be reliable, mature and consistent, even if there are fractures. I think that the committee gives us that opportunity. Will we be using the committee more appropriately in the future?

Hon. M. Rankin:
There were two or three important points made by the member.

First, I just want to acknowledge and agree with him that, when these new fiscal arrangements are finalized — be they in forestry or mining or other economic measures, such as the ones the member has suggested we include involving the taxation of lands — that money often, if not always, gets reinvested in the communities affected.

I think that’s exactly what has happened, and is happening, in the northeast. It’s what’s happening in the northwest, in Tahltan territory. It’s happening, for sure, up in the Fort St. John and Dawson Creek area with the revenues that are being generated now.

The member is not only right; there’s empirical evidence for him being right about that. And we agree.

I think it’s also fair, as the Premier said…. Our government knows that First Nation governments have responsibility and authority and jurisdiction for their land and their people. As a First Nations government, they need resources to be able to do that work. That’s what I think the member is bringing to our attention. We are developing a process for that work. We accept that that’s an important part of the responsibility if they are to have the ability to effectively work with us, as they have been seeking and as this member has advocated.

The final question the member raises concerns the application of the standing committee. I start by saying…. As many of us have said, there’s no premium on good ideas. They don’t come from any one side of the House. So to take advantage…. I’m certainly open to exploring the ideas that the member talked about. I think that work, with the House Leaders’ help, is something that ought to be talked about.

We do have a standing committee. I think the member’s point is that it hasn’t been utilized to the degree that it could be.

I accept that progress on reconciliation is a shared responsibility. It’s not just this government. It’s all of the Legislature that stood up in November of 2019 and enacted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. I never give a speech anywhere where I don’t make the fundamental point that this is not a partisan issue. This is not one party. It’s all parties that joined hands around that sea change in our relationship.

I accept that. I think, therefore, that we, as a Legislature, have got to utilize the tools that are available. The member makes a reference to one tool. There are many others. I do think the fundamental point he makes has to be underscored; namely, we all have a job to do. We all have a commitment and a duty to reconciliation.


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