B.C. government, First Nations postpone aboriginal title legislation until after election
The B.C. government and First Nations leaders have decided to postpone the introduction of historic legislation that would recognize the existence of aboriginal title and rights until after the May election.
The delay gives the parties more time to consult with business leaders and First Nations who have raised concerns about the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act, and allows the Liberal government to put off dealing with a controversial bill until after British Columbians go to the polls.
Premier Gordon Campbell; Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Michael de Jong; Regional Chief Shawn Atleo of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations; Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs; and Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit issued the following joint statement today (March 14):
Over the past several weeks many important issues, concerns and questions have been raised about the Discussion Paper for Implementing the New Relationship and the concept of a new Recognition and Reconciliation Act.
This is the time for us to make this important and historic transition in our government to government relationship and we need to take the time to make sure we get this right.
As the parties to the discussion paper, together we need to take the time for consultation and further discussions before tabling this bill.
Grand Chief Phillip also issued his own statement today:
In response to a growing number of questions, concerns and issues being raised by First Nations, Business and Industry Leaders; Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Mike de Jong and representatives of the BC First Nations Leadership Council have jointly decided to postpone introduction of the proposed 'Recognition and Reconciliation Act until after the Provincial election of May 12th, 2009. Under the circumstances, it was felt that the decision to postpone the introduction of the proposed legislation was responsible, reasonable and appropriate and will allow for a more comprehensive period of consultations with our respective constituent groups.
To date, we have initiated a substantive dialogue with First Nation's Leaders and in many cases, their respective legal counsels. Similarily, we have entered into a dialogue with Business and Industry Leaders.
This process of ongoing dialogue needs to continue.
Finally, given the 'historical' dimensions and significance of the Aboriginal Title Recognition and Reconciliation legislative proposal, we need, to the greatest extent possible, make this journey together.
Today's announcement comes two days after the First Nations Leadership Council—composed of the leaders of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the First Nations Summit—released a statement that said the introduction of the legislation was expected in the "weeks ahead".
"The legislation will also create a greater degree of certainty for business activity in the province," the March 12 statement said. "It will provide for more collaborative, structured and, better decision making with regard to planning, management and tenuring decisions over lands and resources. We are confident it will help create lasting, respectful, mutually beneficial relationships throughout our province."
The press release containing today's joint statement said that Campbell and de Jong "will continue to engage with the business community on this important initiative".
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