(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, February 13, 2007) “This year will mark twenty-five years since Section 35 enshrined Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the Constitution of Canada; over 9 years have passed since Delgamuukw, where the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that Aboriginal Title had not been extinguished in British Columbia; over 2 years have passed since the Haida and Taku decisions, where the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the Crown has a constitutional duty of consultation and accommodation,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Yet with all of this overwhelming legal precedence, the Government of BC uses the Throne Speech to state that it will act on a recommendation of a 2001 review dealing with the artwork in the rotunda of the Parliament Buildings. The UBCIC is less than impressed.”
Grand Chief Phillip continued “While the UBCIC wholeheartedly supports new curricula to preserve our languages, the removal of the offensive murals and the vital issue of climate change, we are keenly aware that we are fast approaching two years since we embarked on the New Relationship. We believe that this is an opportunity to build a genuine government-to-government relationship based on respect, recognition and accommodation of Aboriginal Title and Rights. We committed to work together to establish effective approaches for consultation and accommodation, to develop new structures to negotiate government-to-government agreements in areas of shared decision-making regarding ecosystem stewardship planning, management, tenuring and resource revenue and benefit sharing. We simply cannot afford to continue to squander this opportunity.”
“There still exists a huge gap between the current case law and the good words of the New Relationship. BC’s laws, policies, consultation and accommodation frameworks, government negotiation mandates, and litigation strategies are woefully out-of-step. While there is sincerity and commitment to the New Relationship in the Province, it has yet to filter down to the community level. First Nation communities still encounter government resistance where ‘business as usual’ is the rule. What is really needed is legislative reform. It is absolutely imperative that we immediately begin the challenging work of legislative reform. Then and only then will we be able to begin addressing the crushing poverty in our First Nation communities. Rather than report political niceties, BC needs to utilize the Throne Speech to signal significant commitments such as legislative recognition of our Aboriginal Title and Rights” concluded Grand Chief Phillip.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Chief Stewart Phillip
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.