UN declaration front and center of government and First Nations meetings in BC: Grand Chief

Health care, homelessness, lands and resources are among the top topics of discussion at meetings between BC cabinet ministers and representatives from more than 200 First Nations organizations.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said on Tuesday that historic BC legislation requiring laws to conform to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the basis for doing this work.

« I think we’ve moved beyond ‘I speak’, I think we’ve moved beyond flirting, and I think now is the time, with the foundation and platform of the Declaration on the Rights of indigenous peoples, to do serious work,” he said.

Phillip made the comments at the start of the seventh meeting of Cabinet and BC First Nations leaders. This comes three years after the province passed the law.

Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Summit policy lead, said First Nations are trying to change archaic and colonial institutions and structures that never had space for Indigenous partners.

She said that since the law was passed, First Nations have a stronger vision of what they want to see, « how to bring the law to life » and how to implement it in their communities.

« And to do that, we have to continue to do that in partnership with each other and with the provincial government, » she said.

In his speech at the meeting, Prime Minister David Eby said his government was committed to implementing the declaration and also wanted to be able to address specific issues faced in communities.

He appointed Doug White as the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor on Indigenous Reconciliation.

White is a lawyer, First Nations negotiator, former chief of the Snuneymuxw First Nation and co-chair of the Eby Transition Team.

The premier says White’s role will be to help navigate issues involving multiple provincial departments and the federal government.

Eby said he recognizes there is still work to be done, including on a new fiscal framework to ensure First Nations governments have the revenues they need to look after their constituents.

“The new fiscal framework will support self-determination to achieve a province-wide future where First Nations are active leaders. [A future] where, through self-determination, you guide your own communities to the prosperity and success of your people,” he said.


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