Responses From NDP Leadership Candidates “What will you do?”

News Release - Updated April 15, 2011
(Coast Salish Territory / Vancouver – April 15, 2011) The BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs are publicly releasing a joint letter to the leadership candidates of the BC New Democratic Party.

Three leadership candidates of the BC New Democratic Party responded.  Mike Farnworth, Adrian Dix and John Horgan responses are listed below.

A copy of the joint letter to leadership candidates is online at:
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/News_Releases/UBCICNews02081101.html  

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For more information and further comment:
Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, BC Assembly of First Nations (604) 922-7733
Grand Chief Ed John, First Nations Summit (604) 926-9903
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (604) 684-0231

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Mike Farnworth, Candidate for the BC New Democratic Party Leadership Response

Dear Chiefs of the First Nation Leadership Council:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond as a leadership candidate for the BC NDP to the questions and concerns outlined in your Feb. 8 letter.

Key components of your questions deal with meaningful input into legislation and policy initiatives, maximizing economic involvement and governance capacity, assistance to engage industry, investors and 3rd party interests to help close the socioeconomic gap, and strengthening consultation policies to help resolve natural resource development disagreements. These are extremely important topics and progress must be made on all of them if First Nations, and non-First Nations alike, are to not only fully benefit from the rich resources we have in BC, but are also able to contribute in creating a better place for all to live.

I will address the key components you have outlined in a holistic approach. If you have additional questions or want to discuss aspects in further detail, please do not hesitate to contact me.

There are a number of existing avenues in government structures that can provide opportunities for meaningful First Nations input that begins to reconcile their respective aboriginal title and rights with government legislation and policy development. But these avenues need to be reinvigorated, and we need to build trust in government, which is one of the focal points of my campaign. Specifically in connection to meaningful First Nations input, we need to reestablish the Select Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs which has not met under the BC Liberals for eight years. This is a bipartisan legislative committee which is ideally suited for the type of meaningful input you describe if the right terms of reference are implemented. I also believe integrity needs to be restored in the process of passing Bills into law. This legislative process is set up to provide checks and balances so that a thorough discussion of the planned legislation can occur through first and second readings, the committee stage and the third reading. Unfortunately, the practice of the BC Liberals includes sometimes allotting only two days for this entire process or jamming 10 or more Bills into the last two weeks of a legislative sitting and then using their majority to vote in favour of all them on the last day, no matter how little debate has occurred. This is not a productive, sound or honorable way to make the law of the province. My plan is to restore the integrity of this process and provide meaningful input to legislation, especially during the committee stage where MLAs could take the contents of a Bill to First Nations in their constituencies to improve the final outcome in the legislation. I also want to ensure each MLA plays a more prominent role in the legislative process which will entail productive dialogue with First Nations to receive meaningful input while a Bill is still in the drafting stage. Of course in legislation and policies that involve an overall provincial approach to all First Nations, organizations such as the First Nations Leadership Council will be critical to providing input and analysis in the drafting and committee stages of legislative endeavors.

The socio-economic gap you describe that exists between First Nations and non-First Nation populations in this province is a direct result of Crown policies since contact and is a disgrace for a country and province that prides itself on the principles of justice and fairness. There are many initiatives on the social and economic side that can make a difference in closing this gap. My education platform calls for a provincial commission on education to ensure BC has the best possible education system for the 21st Century. That commission will address topics like how best to prepare students for the realities of modern life and careers. It would be able to make recommendations, for instance, to correct the fact that a 49% school completion rate for First Nation students, 30 percentage points lower than the remainder of the population in BC, is unacceptable and needs action quickly. My poverty reduction platform includes appointing a Cabinet minister with the authority and responsibility to set and achieve legislated poverty reduction targets. One element of this multi-faceted platform is protecting children-at-risk through immediate investments in child protection services and enhancing support for the transition to First Nations’ aboriginal child welfare. This will go a long way to address the fact that 15 of 21 children under the age of two who died in BC between 2007-2009 while in care were aboriginal as detailed in a report last month by BC Representative for Child and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. And properly resourcing organizations like the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres will provide much needed, target support for the rapidly growing urban First Nation demographic.

Education and training are at the basis of increased First Nations participation in the economy yet current provincial government approaches to economic development on traditional territories has reduced opportunities especially in natural resource-related initiatives. We have witnessed a lack of investment due to uncertainty regarding title and conflicts that have arisen due to inadequate consultative processes. A part of this is the failure of the BC Liberals to ensure companies have the ‘social license’ to develop and operate a project. Currently the government absolves itself of responsibility in this area and advises companies to undertake social license related negotiations with the impacted First Nation. This is a total abdication of what is a legitimate role of a responsible government – something the Haida case properly pointed out. A provincial government under my leadership would provide the support and resources to the relevant Ministries to ensure the framework for the social license discussion is well constructed so that the province, First Nations and companies enter into this area of negotiation with a clear understanding of the rules and final objectives. My platform also calls for a revamped environmental assessment process that is independent, fully-funded and utilizes a triple bottom line to assess the full spectrum of economic, social and environmental considerations and the cumulative impacts of project proposals. As such the environmental assessment would fulfill its role as a technical process which could usefully serve as the first stage in consultation with First Nations by collecting and evaluating relevant information so that an accurate picture of a project’s impact and potential mitigation measures can be developed. But consultation with a view to reaching an accommodation is very much a political, not a technical, process which must be attempted through a formally established, and mutually agreed upon, government-to-government process. One reason we have seen failures of the EA process recently is due to the fact that the provincial government’s approach is leaving a technical process to also primarily deal with consultation and accommodation as well and the results have been poor in all topic areas.

There are bilateral and treaty table mechanisms that can assist in defining successful accommodation and consultation as well as addressing the certainty issue around aboriginal title. These mechanisms need more attention and support from the provincial government. At the basis of my approach is respect, recognition and accommodation of aboriginal title and rights in developing government agreements and treaties, ending court actions by government that have sought to deny such title and rights and broadening the range of tools available to include legislation and resources. As Premier I would immediately strike a reconciliation committee in caucus to review recognition legislation with the goal of introducing recommendations into the legislature within one year of forming government.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to respond to your questions. I look forward to more detailed discussions in the future.

Yours truly,
Mike Farnworth
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Adrian Dix, Candidate for the BC New Democratic Party Leadership Response

· Please provide your perspective on how First Nations can meaningfully provide input into provincial legislative initiatives and provincial program and policy development that begins to reconcile their respective Aboriginal Title and Rights?

A. It is important that a new effective and efficient process be created to ensure that Rights and Title are recognized and accommodated in legislation and policy. As Premier I will meet with the Leadership of the First Nations to seek advice on how best to structure the process. The process must be at the Cabinet level, accountable to the Premier and the top Leadership of the Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the AFN. I will ensure that it has sufficient resources and capacity to work effectively. I also propose to make it mandatory that rights and title be addressed and accommodated by all Ministries and Crown Agencies when developing policy and legislation. I will consider legislation to bind Ministries and Agencies in this respect, provided that agreement can be reached with the First Nation leadership on such legislation.

· What will you do to maximize First Nations involvement in the economy and building governance capacity?

A. First Nations economic development is of great importance to the future of BC First Nations and the province generally. Under my leadership, land title and other resources interests of First Nations will be recognized and designated as strategically important. Partnerships and other cooperative ventures will be encouraged and supported. New financing arrangements will be supported based on consultations with First Nations and industry experts and leaders. Business training will be supported through partnerships with universities, colleges and First Nation Institutions, as will training for employment.

Increased governance capacity requires a commitment by the Federal Government to training and development costs. As Premier I will support provincial cooperation and support for any Federal initiative. If this isn't possible, a separate provincial initiative can be considered. I also support much increased support for self government training in universities and colleges.

· What is your view on how the provincial government can better assist First Nations in engaging industry, investors and other third parties to support the *New Relationship* vision to close the socio-economic gap based on mutual respect and recognition?

A. The government must do a better job in educating industry and business on the importance of First Nations title, rights and people to realizing prosperity in BC. Major dividends will be realized by all industries if First Nations interests are recognized and fully accommodated. First Nations people, lands and resources are huge largely untapped sources of growth and development. These cannot be realized if government alone is committed. The other key economic actors need to understand and play a major role. I will constitute a permanent Council of BC Business and First Nations Partnerships, charged with educating the business community and advising government on policies needed to encourage and support business participation in the building of a new era of relationships built on respect, accommodation and renewal. I will include First Nations business leaders in all major business and investor consultations.

· What will you do as Premier to strengthen BC Consultation Policies in a manner that fully respects our Aboriginal Title & Rights in order to prevent resource development conflicts such as the Prosperity Mine issue?

I will redefine and restructure the Consultation policies. I will require a higher standard of accommodation and respect than the bare legal minimum as is now the case. In consultation with the First Nations Leadership, I will try to reach agreement on a rules based process that is fair, predictable, and affordable for First Nations. The onus on First Nations is currently too demanding and the costs of negotiations too high. First Nations whose interests are affected must be provided certainty about how those interests will be treated in the Consultation Process, including a clearer definition of when and how compensation and consent will be required.

I also consider it inappropriate for Consultations to be included within Environmental Assessments if a First Nation wants direct Consultations, or if a First Nation believes that an Environmental Assessment has not adequately considered its interests. Any participation of a First Nations in an Environmental Assessment should be without prejudice to First Nations rights and title. Separate government-to-government negotiations must always be agreed to if requested by a First Nation. I believe that if the BC Government had followed this approach, it would not have approved the Prosperity Mine development.

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John Horgan, Candidate for the BC New Democratic Party Leadership Response

Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould
The BC Assembly of First Nations

Grand Chief Edward John, Grand Chief Douglas White III Kwulasultun and Dan Smith
The First Nations Summit

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Robert Chamberlin and Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Union of BC Indian Chiefs

April 15, 2011

To Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould, Grand Chief John, Grand Chief White III Kwulasultun, Mr. Smith, Grand Chief Phillip, Chief Chamberlin and Chief Baptiste:

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your letter. You’ve posed some key questions getting at the heart of the relationship between First Nations and the provincial government.

We share the goal of building healthy prosperous societies, communities and economies for our citizens. We share a commitment to developing a permanent new relationship and culture of mutual respect between First Nations and the provincial government. We also share a keen awareness that these are not simple issues. Many of your predecessors and mine have invested good faith effort, time, money and the hopes of our citizens in efforts to improve the life of First Nations and, through that, the life of the province.

I’ve provided my thoughts on your questions. They reflect my belief that true cultural change is required to transform the relationship between the province and First Nations. That change happens step by step through actions and relationships and the building of trust. I believe the first steps of that change have happened and I commit to continuing to build on them with the tools available to me as Premier, while you deploy the tools available to you to do the same.

Cultural change takes time. I will not turn back the clock and I commit to working with you towards this fundamental goal.

Kindest regards,
John Horgan

Question 1: Please provide your perspective on how First Nations can meaningfully provide input into provincial legislative initiatives and provincial program and policy development that begins to reconcile their respective Aboriginal Title and Rights?

I would point to two priorities.

First, and most easily achieved: we need to use the Legislative Standing Committee on Aboriginal Relations. Although the Committee itself is composed of MLA’s, I believe that external representatives from the First Nations community should be selected to join in the Committee’s work. I want to sit down with the First Nations leadership to determine the best way to accomplish this, and what would be the most productive tasks for the Committee to undertake.

Second comes the harder part. Really engaging in a full intergovernmental relationship, the New Relationship, requires consistent, regular, wide reaching contact among all levels on both sides. This is the “nine parts perspiration - one part inspiration” of any progress. Leaders on all sides are busy with many issues. Staff on all sides are busy with everything from managing road maintenance to building new housing…there are plenty of must-do issues every day for all of us. Time and resources are finite on all sides. And political turmoil in the province over the last year has sometimes clouded the purpose of provincial staff. I will recommit all levels of the provincial government to the principles of the New Relationship and the involvement of First Nations in the development of legislative and policy initiatives by the province.

Question 2: What will you do to maximize First Nations involvement in the economy and building governance capacity?

First of all – we need to work together to keep young people in school. When 50% of First Nations’ youth do not graduate high school their ability to build a strong economy in their communities – as workers or business owners, is restricted. It’s not a new issue, and it’s not something the province can “fix” on its own. First Nations leaders need to work with us to correct course. As one small part, I have committed to protecting and re-opening rural schools that have been closed for economic reasons in the last ten years. And I want to expand the use of practical, work-based education in the last part of high school. There are programs where students can learn a trade or skilled occupation in high school and get high school certificates on graduation. For students focused on getting work rather than going on to a four year university, this could make the difference in keeping them in school and engaged.

Improving participation in education is an absolute requirement. Other tasks lie ahead as well, but without this as a foundation, any economic progress will always be at risk.

Governance is a harder nut to crack. As leaders you know that these are skills built up over years of experience, mentoring, and training. Every part, from the administrative and program management skills needed by staff to the political skills of leaders needs to work well for a government system to work well. I think what the province can contribute is mentoring/job tracking/training opportunities for First Nations government representatives. There are fundamental skills and processes that are useful to share, and will allow the flexibility for First Nations government representatives to build and amend to suit their own needs. I would welcome the chance to talk more with you about this.

Question 3: What is your view on how the provincial government can better assist First Nations in engaging industry, investors and other third parties to support the New Relationship vision to close the socio-economic gap based on mutual respect and recognition?

The most important thing the provincial government can do is itself support the New Relationship goals in spirit and letter, and demand the same of third party activities in the province. This requires real working relationships, not one-off dealmaking, however attractive those are to all parties.

This also requires commitment on the part of government for a long enough period that the approach becomes part of the business and government culture of the province. I support the efforts of the previous government to make this change, and I’m worried that the last year of political instability has undermined the progress to date. As leader and Premier I will reestablish this commitment.

In the long term, treaty settlement truly cements this relationship and provides the best basis for closing the socio-economic gap that has dogged First Nations for generations.

The treaty process is working for some but not for everyone and needs a thorough review. For those not involved in the process, we need to roll up our sleeves and find an alternative means to reconciliation that is not mired in litigation. And everything needs to be viewed through the lens of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Question 4: What will you do as Premier to strengthen BC Consultation Policies in a manner that fully respects our Aboriginal Title & Rights in order to prevent resource development conflicts such as the Prosperity Mine issue?

I’ve committed to restore integrity to the Environmental Assessment process in the province. The Prosperity Mine provided a worst-case-scenario of what happens when you take a process that was progressive in the mid 1990’s, strip it of its mandate, budget and ability to evolve to meet current expectations, and then try to ignore the concerns of many British Columbians. Frankly, I’m also dismayed that Premier Clark used her first and only meeting with the Prime Minister to urge approval of the quickly revised project. It raises questions about her understanding of the issues, and whose interests she represents.

My commitment is to rebuild an assessment process that respects all interests, including First Nations’. I want to consult with you, as well as industry, working people, academics and others to shape the new process, but it’s work that needs to be done.

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.