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Union of BC Indian Chiefs opposes Standing Committee

PENTICTON- The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is opposing the NDP’s request for a province-wide consultation on the proposed Recognition and Reconciliation legislation.

“It’s premature,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “We don’t have a piece of draft legislation to serve as a base for discussion.”

Last week, in a letter to Premier Gordon Campbell, BC NDP leader Carole James asked the province to support a series of province-wide hearings conducted by the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs that would both inform native and non-native British Columbians about the proposed legislation, and seek input on it.

Currently the First Nations Leadership Council is conducting regional consultations with First Nations throughout the province looking at a discussion paper on the proposed legislation. In her letter, James said a similar process needs to happen with the general public as well.

But Grand Chief Phillip, who also sits on the First Nations Leadership Council and is helping conduct the regional sessions, said that a broad consultation doesn’t make sense yet.

“It would serve little purpose to discuss a concept that hasn’t been solidified through the primary parties at the table. Solidified and endorsed,” he said.

Phillip said many First Nations are loudly opposing parts of the discussion paper.

“We quickly realized that the reconstitution was by no means a crowd pleaser...the fact that we have an empty chair at the table, namely the Government of Canada, causes concern and brings up issues of constitutionality. Also, the form of title that will be recognized. There is concern that it won’t be the same strength as section 35, 1 of the constitution which has been recognized by the courts.”

Phillip said there will be significant changes that need to be made to the proposed legislation when it is drafted.

The UBCIC is concerned that to preemptively open the door to discussion before these changes are made will only create inflammatory, counter productive discussion.

Phillip said province-wide consultation should happen, just not yet.

“Once we complete [the regional sessions] and the province is willing to re-embrace the issue... and we could come up with something all parties can support, then I think we can look into a broader consultation, but certainly not right now.”

The last regional session takes place next week in Vancouver. After that, the First Nations Leadership Council will produce a report summarizing the feedback from all the sessions and look at a collective decision regarding the discussion paper based on the findings.

Christine McLaren reports for The Tyee.

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