Scott Fraser speaks at the Celebration of Fishing Rights in Maht Mahs Gym on the Tseshaht First Nation in November 2016. He was re-elected this spring to represent Mid-Island-Pacific Rim in the legislature with the NDP. (Shayne Morrow photo)
British Columbia’s NDP and Green Party are poised to control the legislature with an agreement signed Tuesday - and with this partnership bring a host of commitments to improve the lives of Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and other aboriginal peoples.
On May 30 party leaders John Horgan and Andrew Weaver presented the 10-page accord, outlining the partnership both parties plan to keep over the next 4-years. This agreement gives the NDP and Greens a narrow majority in the legislature with 44 seats to the Liberals’ 43. If Christy Clark and her Liberals are defeated in a confidence vote, this NDP-Green majority would allow Horgan to become the next premier.
During the spring election the NDP and Greens committed to making reconciliation a priority. In their official platforms both parties promised to follow the 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. These tenets include reducing the number of aboriginal children in care and eliminating the over-representation of indigenous people in custody.
“We believe this is the right step to redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation,” stated the NDP platform.
The B.C. NDP also promised to adopt the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The party emphasized the importance of language programs, such as the teaching of Nuu-chah-nulth that is currently happening in schools and west coast communities on Vancouver Island.
“That means we’ll provide support to indigenous communities seeking to revitalize connections to their languages,” stated the NDP.
For the Green Party, upholding First Nations rights includes land management.
“The B.C. Green Party recognizes that it is time to fundamentally change the dynamic between indigenous people and the provincial government,” reads the Green’s platform. “A B.C. Green government will recognize First Nations as equals in land management and establish a co-management stewardship model with Indigenous people for the development of provincial resources.”
These election promises align with calls from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs for the province to better represent the interest of First Nations. When Horgan and Weaver first announced the partnership this week the union issued an open letter to the two leaders and Premier Christy Clark, calling for the government to “rebuild the trust of British Columbians.”
The letter was critical of large-scale developments like the Site C dam, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion and LNG projects.
“British Columbia’s economy has become reliant on an industry propped up by a temporary transient workforce precariously perched on archaic notions requiring the complete destruction or our pristine air, land and waters, and on an industry which runs rough-shod over the democratic and human rights of indigenous and non-indigenous communities alike,” stated the UBCIC letter.