UBCIC Opposition to Introduction of Regional Aboriginal Authority Legislation – April 30, 2008

Open Letter to Minister Christensen
VIA FACSIMILE

Honourable Tom Christensen
Minister of Children and Family Development
PO Box 9057
STN PROV GOVT
Victoria BC
V8W 9E2

Fax: 250 387-9722

Dear Minister Christensen:

Re: Opposition to Introduction of Regional Aboriginal Authority Legislation – April 30, 2008

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs vehemently opposes the introduction of Regional Aboriginal Authority legislation into the British Columbia Legislature on Wednesday April 30, 2008.

We have worked with the Ministry of Children and Family Development for the past six (6) years since the signing of the historic Tsawwassen Accord, Memorandum of Understanding for Aboriginal Children, the New Relationship Accord and numerous other challenging obstacles. The Union is vastly disappointed that throughout the five years of our working relationship, that at the last moment, we were informed that you would introduce Regional Aboriginal Authority Legislation, despite strong opposition expressed to you twice in the last two weeks from the BC First Nations Leadership Council.

The establishment of meaningful legislation would reflect a government-to-government relationship based upon mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation; the very principles your provincial government committed to in the New Relationship. This unilateral decision to move the legislation, despite constant objections from First Nations leadership in British Columbia which only serves as a shameful reminder that the honour of the BC Crown is not being upheld.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations and Aboriginal People have worked diligently towards a new approach to providing services and support to our most vulnerable citizens: Our children. We have vested time, energy, resources and good faith in working with your Ministry. It has been a huge disappointment that minimal efforts have been made in the area of consultation and accommodation in the legislative process.

The introduction of RAA legislation will only serve to further alienate the First Nations and Aboriginal People in British Columbia. For far too long, First Nations have experienced government policies that have negatively impacted our children, communities and Nations. We cannot stand idly by, as you move forward in a unilateral fashion. This approach goes against the very spirit and intent of the Tsawwassen Accord and Memorandum of Understanding for Aboriginal Children.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs asserts that the recognition of our inherent jurisdiction for our children and families must not be fettered by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Our constituents have directed the UB CIC Social Development Committee to remain steadfastly committed to the vision and principles set out in our documents Calling Forth our Future and Coordinated Aboriginal Children’s’ Agenda.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has worked with Deputy Minister Lesley du Toit who has remained committed to a meaningful working relationship with First Nations in British Columbia. To introduce legislation will only extinguish the efforts made by Deputy Minister Lesley du Toit and create negative strain on an already fragile First Nations-Crown relationship in British Columbia.

Finally, the introduction of this legislation will dislodge and alienate the regional aboriginal planning committees and interim authorities. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs has advocated that each and every region must have the necessary capacity and resources to move forward towards regionalization.

As recently confirmed by BC Representative for Children and Youth, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond has highlighted the major crises occurring within the BC child welfare system in her report Amanda, Savannah, Rowen, Serena: From Loss to Learning. This has clearly demonstrated that the Ministry of Children and Family Development must work with First Nations to improve the lives of all children in British Columbia. The Ministry of Children and Family Development cannot continue in a unilateral fashion, while Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children suffer in a defective child welfare system.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs opposes and completely rejects MCFD’s unilateral decision to move forward without any meaningful consideration of First Nations in British Columbia. In order to demonstrate a meaningful government-to-government relationship, MCFD must work in coordinated efforts with First Nations and Aboriginal People towards a child welfare system that protects and works in the best interest of our children; to do otherwise would be a failure on your part and ours.

In the Spirit of Unity,

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President
Union of BC Indian Chiefs


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