Premier Horgan released his cabinet minister mandate letters in late July showing how the new government plans to put promises into action. You can see a summary here. We’ve reviewed these letters for changes in Indigenous relations with B.C.
Bringing the Principles of the Declaration into Action
All the ministers received directives to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The letters impel each cabinet minister to bring UNDRIP and the TRC recommendations into action.
What does it look like to bring the principles of UNDRIP into action in B.C.? Will First Nations see tangible differences in relationship with the Province?
Reducing Indigenous Incarceration Rates
Attorney General David Eby has been tasked with reducing the number of Indigenous people being incarcerated and improve access to legal services. Both B.C. and Canada’s rates of incarceration for Indigenous people are wildly disproportionate. Maclean’s called Canada’s prisons the ‘new residential schools’. Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth has an overlapping mandate to reduce the number of Indigenous people in the entire justice system.
What programs can reduce incarceration rates? Will this result in changes to colonial institutions that marginalize Indigenous peoples?
Reducing Indigenous Children In Care
Katrine Conroy, Minister of Child and Family Development is directed to implement the recommendations of Grand Chief Ed John’s report and reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. Education Minister Rob Fleming is tasked with implementing First Nations history and TRC Calls to Action and Indigenous language and culture curriculum.
This social and cultural development focus is comforting, yet how will it look in communities across B.C.? Will public sentiment embrace these changes?
Contrasting the Previous Government’s Mandate
The Liberal’s mandate letters from 2014 focused on: “…the need to renew economic growth, secure long-lasting prosperity and welcome private-sector investment…” The Liberal’s mandate for to First Nations was focused on economic participation particularly to invite foreign investment in LNG and bitumen pipeline projects. Is the NDP forgetting about the economy?
The Indian Act has prohibited prosperity for Indigenous people by design, and certainly reengaging with the economy is important for self-determination, but should it be the focal point? Is it as simple as employment equals empowerment?
What Will Happen with LNG?
Energy and Mines Minister Michelle Mungal’s mandate is not much different to the First Nations, local jobs, and resource revenues criteria that the Liberals had in place. If there is any difference it lies in the environmental criteria, which moves into Minister of Environment George Heyman’s arena. Heyman is meant to revitalize the Environmental Assessment process with a focus on ensuring First Nations’ legal rights are respected.
How will this reflect B.C.’s current court cases? Will LNG die a slow market death in such a high cost jurisdiction? What will this do for jobs in B.C.?
What about the Land?
The big question is how will the pleasantries of the NDP’s mandate to implement declarations translate with lands and resources? Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Resources and Rural Development is directed to “modernize land-use planning and sustainably manage B.C.’s ecosystems, rivers, lakes, watersheds, forests and old growth.”
Will B.C. carry on the forest revenue agreements with First Nations? How will the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision influence resource revenue sharing and land management? Will First Nations get greater control of their lands?
Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation
Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is meant to establish a clear, cross-government vision of reconciliation to guide the adoption of UNDRIP, the TRC Calls to Action, and the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court decision.
What does this cross-government vision of reconciliation look like? Can the bureaucracy retool itself to implement true, lasting reconciliation?
Does it call for a Reconciliation Secretariat?
Will we see something similar in B.C. to ensure the cross-government approach to reconciliation that the NDP promises?
Is the name change to ‘Indigenous’ from ‘Aboriginal’ just superficial?
Is this just another way to rename assimilation? Or do the changes reflect the long overdue settler recognition of our two-tiered society?
Tell us what you think
Does the NDP’s mandate better reflect true, lasting reconciliation? Are you encouraged by the mandate letters? What programs do you see working to create a post-colonial B.C.?
Leave your comments below – add your voice to the Dialogue!