Northwest Indigenous Council formed to give voice to B.C.’s urban indigenous communities

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      A new advocacy group is hoping to give a political voice to B.C.’s urban indigenous population.

      The Northwest Indigenous Council—as the new organization is called—will lobby municipal, provincial, and federal governments on issues affecting the growing number of indigenous peoples living off-reserve.

      “There are a lot of people who are facing challenges and issues and they don’t have a political advocacy organization to help them,” said Ernie Crey, a long-time indigenous advocate who presides over the new organization.

      The issues that the organization will be advocating for are not set in stone, and will emerge from the specific needs of each community, Crey said.

      “We won’t decide what the issues are on our own. That comes when you get out into the community and people bring their concerns to the table.”

      The new organization filed its paperwork with the B.C. Registry Services last week, and now hopes to get establish in Vancouver before expanding to other urban areas across the province.

      According to the 2011 National Household Survey, there are over 196,000 aboriginal people living in the province. 60 percent of those people live in cities, while only 26 percent live on-reserve.

      While organizations like the provincial branch of the Assembly of First Nations and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs advocate for people living on-reserve, according to Crey there are no political organizations that represent those who live off-reserve.

      “These people are many times abandoned and don’t have a political home,” Crey said, adding that organizations such as friendship centres or housing societies are good service providers, but aren’t political lobbying groups.

      “Ultimately they don’t represent the urban indigenous communities,” he said.

      To show its commitment to B.C.’s off-reserve indigenous population, the Northwest Indigenous Council has decided to be economically self-reliant, and will not be asking money from any level of government.

      Instead, the organization hopes to organize fundraising events and apply for private grants.

      “We want that independence and we want to be able to go to government and lobby them—and sometimes confront them—without the fear of censure through the loss of funding,” Crey said. 

      Peter Mothe is a practicum student at the Georgia Straight and a graduate student at UBC's school of journalism. You can follow him on Twitter.



      Pierce Graham

      Jun 2, 2015 at 2:56pm

      I taught Ernie Crey in English 12 at NorKam Secondary in Kamloops in the late 1960's, and have watched his leadership career for decades . I am happy to see him once again emerge as a highly moral model for his people, and for the rest of British Columbians.

      Jo-Anne Ross

      Jul 29, 2015 at 4:03pm

      I worked with Ernie Crey when the United Native Nations Society was still a thriving political organization for people living away from home. I have watched him as a strong leader & spokesperson for the rights of Indigenous peoples.