Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

BC NDP calls for hearings on Recognition and Reconciliation

VICTORIA - The B.C. New Democratic Party is asking the Liberal party to support a series of “broad public hearings” on the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act this fall.

“Many British Columbians are raising unanswered questions about the Recognition and Reconciliation Act,” NDP leader Carole James said in a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell today.

“Given that your government has stated that one of the key goals of the legislation is to achieve certainty, the uncertainty created amongst industry, citizens, and communities by the lack of public discussion of this proposed legislation is troubling,” she wrote.

The Act was proposed in the government's 2009 Throne speech, and exists only as a discussion paper, not actual legislation.

The First Nations Leadership council has been collecting input from various First Nations across the province since May, and the government has been holding its own 'stakeholder' consultations, but James wants all British Columbians, both native and non-native, to be consulted in a formal, public manner.

James suggested in the letter that the provincial legislature's Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs could hold a province-wide series of public hearings on the proposed legislation. She pointed to the extensive public meetings held by the same committee in 1996 and 1997 during a study of the Nisga'a Treaty agreement-in-principle as an example.

If that process is followed, the Standing Committee -- made up of both government and opposition members of the legislature -- would hold hearings across the province and invite members of the public to appear as witnesses.

However, a mandate to undertake the study must be approved by a majority of MLAs when the legislature resumes later this summer, and so requires support from the B.C. Liberals.

In the United Kingdom and other Parliamentary countries, it is common for governments to issue 'white papers' seeking input from the legislature and public on major pieces of proposed legislation, but this is rare in Canada. Instead, legislative committees usually only study a proposed law when the formal bill is introduced, by which time most decisions have been made.

NDP Critic for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, Bob Simpson said that the biggest risk associated with holding sessions on the proposed Act is that it means asking for input about legislation that isn’t even written yet.

“The risk is that you don’t have answers to their questions.”

The first task of the committee would be to educate citizens about the proposed legislation and not discuss it without first giving that context.

Simpson said many questions from British Columbians have gone unanswered: whether the legislation would give First Nations veto rights over natural resources; if the legislation would apply to private land; how the reconstitution of the Aboriginal governments would work; and other essential questions.

“The government needs to at least bring British Columbians up to speed in what they’re trying to accomplish… and what they hope to achieve by embarking on this journey so that hopefully we can embark on it in a more informed way.”

“Matters are really bad right now and they’re getting worse. In the absence of proactive movement of the Government of British Columbia, I think we’re heading for a serious collision with First Nations communities,” Simpson said.

However, if the Recognition and Reconciliation legislation is a serious attempt to accelerate the process, the NDP said they are willing to give the government the benefit of the doubt.

“We just want to be a part of that process,” Simpson added.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus