Letter to the editor

(The following letter is addressed to Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen.)

On behalf of the East Kootenay Wildlife Association and its nine member organizations representing 3,700 individual members in the East Kootenay Region, I would like to provide our written comments to the proposed amendment to the Land Act.

Thankfully, the Vancouver Sun raised the awareness to British Columbians of this NDP government’s intent to amend the Land Act which will give “legal effect” to decision-making powers for First Nations over Crown land. The amendments will ensure that such agreements “have the force of law.” It’s unconscionable that this government, elected by British Columbians, did not care to seek, openly and transparently, its constituents’ opinions, thoughts and concerns on such a plan before beginning the process. 

The NDP’s timeline for the consultation and the implementation of public land-use agreements is truly terrifying. 

The fact that the government intends to start drafting the amendments in February, nearly two months before the public consultation period ends clearly indicates to British Columbians how little this government truly cares about the content of those bills and that the opinions of ordinary British Columbians don’t matter. 

Additionally, an analysis by McMillan LLP, a firm specializing in Indigenous law: “These amendments would go much further than the Supreme Court of Canada’s rulings based on the recognition of Aboriginal rights set out in s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. While the Supreme Court has issued many decisions making clear Indigenous groups hold certain special rights, including the right to be consulted before decisions are made that could affect them, the court has repeatedly stated that they do not have a veto over Crown land decision-making.” 

So, the question is: Why the urgency to advance amendments that are above and beyond those legally recognized as necessary without adequate, open and transparent engagement with British Columbians? 

In an election year, where the NDP may not form government again, why saddle another party and British Columbians with an ill conceived and poorly contrived amendment that will impact this and all future generations?

The EKWA supports and is committed to reconciliation and in working together to ensure a brighter future for all British Columbians. However, the provincial government has set this province on an uncertain trajectory by launching a trivial public consultation on co-management of roughly 95 per cent of the land in British Columbia. 

The EKWA is deeply concerned about the impact the amendments will have on the ability of British Columbians to steward, access, and enjoy nearly every inch of the province for recreation and business, while delivering effective veto power, disregarding the concepts of natural justice and procedural fairness.

We welcome the opportunity for fair, meaningful, open and transparent engagement to develop an approach that will ensure progress towards reconciliation and that will address the concerns of all British Columbians and ensure the fair and equitable ability to steward, access, and enjoy the Crown Lands of the province for recreation and business.

We ask the NDP to halt the plan to amend the Land Act and to instead develop a more robust process that allows for, considers and includes feedback from all British Columbians.

Kevin Podrasky, president

East Kootenay Wildlife Association