By Breanne Massey
For 90 per cent of the population, provincially controlled legislation that does not allow First Nations to participate in regional district board meetings until the treaty process has been completed is just another headline about arbitrary decisions that the government has made to gain control.
But for people like Akisqnuk First Nation chief Lorne Shovar, who requested a seat at the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors table to vote on community-based decisions within the region in March, its yet another historical clash thats continued for years.
After sitting in the same meetings, listening to the same speeches and signing the same pieces of paper to garner a peaceful solution between the First Nations communities in Canada and the Crown there are and still remain two opposing opinions about how to interpret the agreement.
While the RDEK has been making an effort to meet with Shovar and discuss options to get around this dated legislation, it is troubling to see that times have not changed when it comes to governance in Canada.
The Akisqnuk First Nation, which is under the leadership of the Ktunaxa Nation Council, is in the process of actively negotiating a treaty with the Government of Canada and the B.C. Government to remain a self-governing nation with the capabilities to provide services to its members independently. However, the act of participation and cooperation are not enough to be involved in making decisions where mutual interests lie.
With archaic legislation continually altering the course of life through RDEK decisions being made for the Akisqnuk First Nation without having the right to vote begs the question: What will change when the treaty process has been completed and the Akisqnuk First Nation is allowed a seat on the RDEK board of directors?
Democracy is not about treaty rights. Its about representation, and every citizen deserves this right, even those from small First Nation communities.
Maybe its time to look at the big picture to see who this legislation really benefits, and then ask yourself if this is a pattern of hidden racism that we want to continue to see?