Grand Chief Edward John has pronounced B.C.’s proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act “dead”.
John made this declaration in a press release issued today (August 28), after an assembly of First Nations chiefs meet this week to discuss the proposed legislation, which would have seen the province recognize the existence of aboriginal title and rights.
“When we travelled through the province, to the many regional sessions and community meetings, we consistently heard the deep concerns of the potential impacts of the proposed legislation on our Indigenous Title and Rights,” the First Nations Summit executive said. “Our people and leadership judge the Province not by their words but their continued actions that infringe on their territories and resources. The Province of British Columbia cannot and does not have jurisdiction over our Indigenous Title and Rights and as such the proposed legislation is dead.”
The release was issued by the summit, Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and B.C. Assembly of First Nations.
It said that the chiefs unanimously endorsed an “action strategy” to assert their First Nations’ aboriginal title and rights.
“Clearly the Premier and his government have not acted honourably through the course of the so-called ”˜New Relationship’,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the union, said in the release. “Indigenous communities demand substance not empty platitudes. Rather than breaking down the outdated legal barriers and the archaic colonial attitudes of the bureaucracy, Indigenous communities, such as the Xeni Gwet’in or those of the Common Table, are facing deliberately constructed and illegal denial strategies of their Title and Rights in court and in their negotiations. That must stop.”
On August 25, the B.C. government acknowledged in its throne speech that the proposed legislation wasn’t going over well with First Nations.
“Reconciliation demands that we listen to First Nations, and clearly, more work must be done before the Recognition and Reconciliation Act is introduced to this house,” Lieutenant-Governor Steven Point said in the legislature.
In a July 23 commentary in the Georgia Straight, former Neskonlith chief Arthur Manuel wrote: “The much advertised recognition of aboriginal title is contingent upon recognition of provincial Crown title in return. This position has historically been rejected by indigenous peoples insisting that their relationship is with the federal Crown and not with lower levels of government.”
The B.C. government and First Nations leaders had originally hoped the legislation would be introduced before the provincial election in May.
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