Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott says he wasn't expecting to divulge the news today.
But after it was revealed at a First Nations Summit meeting today that he is likely to become the next top official at the B.C. Treaty Commission, Abbott decided to speak to the Georgia Straight about becoming the next chief commissioner.
"I just couldn't after a few sleepless nights bring myself to say no to what I think is going to be a most challenging but interesting and exciting opportunity," Abbott said. "I'd say first of all that the history of this province and the history of this nation is not a happy one from the perspective of aboriginal relations. Historically, there's been a lot of destructive public policy."
Abbott pointed out that he won't become chief commissioner unless this is ratified by the federal and provincial governments and the First Nations Summit.
If he's approved by all parties, he will replace Sophie Pierre on April 1, 2015.
"I think that the treaty process offers an important opportunity for those First Nations that want to proceed down that path," Abbott said.
He mentioned that more than 70 aboriginal groups are participating in the treaty process, which is being boycotted by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Abbott acknowledged that the debts piled up by First Nations who are involved in negotiating treaties have become a significant issue.
"The debt, I think, is approaching for First Nations alone close to half a billion dollars," he said. "At some point that becomes, in fact, a disincentive to complete those processes. Yes, it's a complex issue. If it was a simple issue, I suspect it would have been resolved some time ago."
Abbott was B.C.'s minister of aboriginal affairs as well as the minister of health and education before retiring from provincial politics in 2013.
He's working on a PhD at the University of Victoria on the impact that construction of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam had on First Nations.