Aboriginal people in B.C. should form political party, school trustee says
An elected school trustee who lives in Kamloops is calling for aboriginal people in British Columbia to establish a new political party.
With the B.C. Liberal and New Democratic parties both staging their own leadership races, Troy Hunter told the Straight that it’s a “really good time” for indigenous people to build a provincial party that could field a slate of aboriginal candidates in the next election.
“I suppose I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of decisions that are being made,” Hunter said by phone from his home. “It seems that the indigenous peoples are lacking a voice in the legislature, where important decisions are made.”
Hunter is a first-term trustee with the Nicola-Similkameen school district, which oversees schools in Merritt and Princeton, and a member of the Ktunaxa Nation.
This week, Hunter circulated an open letter, putting forth the idea of founding a political party based on the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
His open letter suggests that the First Nations Leadership Council “take the lead on this idea”.
It notes that the First Peoples National Party of Canada exists at the federal level, and the All Nations Party of B.C. was active in the 2001 provincial election.
“I hope someone is listening with the intent of breathing life into this idea of an Indigenous rooted political party,” Hunter wrote. “I am not a racist, the stark reality is that Indigenous peoples’ are true bona fide stakeholders with unceded Aboriginal Title and BC has a long way to go with respect to finalizing treaty negotiations.”
Hunter told the Straight that the UN declaration—which the Canadian government endorsed in November after voting against its adoption in 2007—recognizes that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, to establish their own political institutions, and to decide whether or not to participate in government.
But he said he would like to see British Columbians from all backgrounds get involved with a new indigenous political party, which he proposes be called the First Peoples Political Party.
“It’s not so much race-based,” Hunter said. “It’s more coming from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the charter document. It’s sets the tone right there. I don’t know how to go about starting a political party. But I think that would be a very good starting point to begin with.”
Hunter stressed that he isn’t talking about a party with a “single-issue platform”.
He’s concerned with the state of education, the environment, human rights, economy, and employment across the province.
“Aboriginal students in the province, maybe 50 percent are completing high school,” Hunter said. “When you look at the statistics, the aboriginal people are on the failing end of education. Education’s extremely important in everything that we do.”
Hunter observed that the B.C. treaty process has gone “stale” due to government negotiating mandates.
He also said he’s “disheartened” that First Nations and government are “at odds” despite the promise of the 2005 New Relationship accord between B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell and top First Nations leaders.
“We need to have consensus,” Hunter said. “I think that, in order for that to happen, we have to be participants.”
You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.