News Staff Reporter
May 10 2006
With little federal funding for Aboriginals, there is increased pressure on
the New Relationship between the province and First Nations to work quickly,
says a local leader.
“Now that the government of Canada
has summarily trashed the Kelowna Accord, there is greater pressure on the
New Relationship dialogue to show immediate results and unfortunately that is
not happening,” said Chief Stewart Phillip of the Penticton Indian Band and
president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Phillip, who sits on the New Relationship trust fund board, was responding to
the province’s release of a New Relationship progress report that discusses
the meaning of the New Relationship and its future goals.
The New Relationship, when it was first announced, was touted as “profound”
and “promising” by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tom Christensen and a working
“alliance” between the government and First Nations, said Grand Chief John
Edward at the Special Chiefs Assembly last May.
But the New Relationship dialogue is moving “too slow,” said Phillip.
While he supports the New Relationship dialogue, Phillip, who said he spends
much of his time in various meetings dealing with it, is concerned about a
lack of results.
While the Kelowna Accord was set to deal with socio-economic issues,
including education, health care and housing on reserves now, the New
Relationship document was to deal with First Nations title and rights issues
in B.C. It would see policy and legislative reform that is consistent with
Supreme Court rulings in the Haida and Taku River Tlingit, as well as the
Delgamuukw cases, said Phillip.
Those rulings said that government had a legally enforceable duty to consult
with First Nations and accommodate their interests before any proposed
development or resource extraction could occur on their territories.
For example, Phillip said, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s
Regional Growth Strategy infringes on “unceded” Okanagan Nation territory.
The New Relationship document would ensure that First Nations had involvement
in any decisions affecting their lands, as well as access to the “wealth from
development and resources, which would be used to subsidize health care,
education, economic development, housing and community infrastructure in
First Nations communities.
“That’s not happening,” said Phillip.
The lack of consultation and therefore lack of influence afforded to the
First Nations is creating frustration through First Nations communities, he
“And it’s unfortunate that we have to put on masks to be seen and burn tires
to be heard, because that seems to be the only thing governments acknowledge
when they have a problem, is when they see that happen,” he said.
While First Nations are waiting for policy reforms, Phillip said poverty is
continuing affect communities through gang and drug-related violence, infant
deaths, suicide and murders. After waiting 13 years for treaty negotiations,
First Nations cannot and will not wait another 13 years, said Phillip.
“The frustration in our communities will completely and totally eclipse the
good will and the hard work that’s part in parcel of the New relationship
dialogue,” said Phillip, adding that he warned the province against entering
into the New Relationship if it would not be prepared to follow through with
legislative and policy changes.