Thank you, and good morning, Mr. Chair, committee members.
My name is Ernie Daykin, and I'm the mayor of the District of Maple Ridge in British Columbia. I will say, it was a bit of a challenge getting here this morning. I didn't realize that Ottawa got fog.
I'm also a director on the Metro Vancouver board and the chair of the Metro Vancouver aboriginal relations committee. Mr. Hildebrand is general manager of corporate services and corporate counsel for Metro Vancouver, and one of Ralph's responsibilities is the Metro Vancouver aboriginal relations committee.
Just at the outset, I will tell you a little bit about Metro Vancouver. We're a federation of 22 municipalities and one treaty first nation who work together collaboratively to ensure that we have a liveable region, and we work on a variety of issues. I want to also say at the outset that we appreciate the work you're doing. We also recognize and acknowledge that we want what is best for our community, or for Metro Vancouver, while respecting the fact that first nations also want what is the best for their communities. We have, I think, very similar goals.
As I said, Metro is a federation of local municipalities. We work together to deliver regional services that include drinking water, waste water treatment, and solid waste. Metro Vancouver also regulates air quality, plans for urban growth, manages a regional park system, and provides affordable housing.
Metro Vancouver currently serves 2.3 million residents. Over 50% of B.C.'s population live in the Metro Vancouver area. We are home to 11 first nations communities, 22 Indian reservations, and one treaty territory. The regional district is governed by a board of directors, who are elected officials from each local authority, including the Tsawwassen First Nation.
As I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, I am the chair of the aboriginal relations committee, a standing committee of the Metro Vancouver board of directors, which was established to provide treaty negotiations and aboriginal relations to the Metro Vancouver board and individual municipalities—in short, to be a resource. One of the committee's endeavours over the past couple of years has been to monitor the progress of the federal government's development of the revised additions to reserve, ATR, policy. A Metro Vancouver policy paper was presented in March of 2012, and that was communicated to the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. It identified a number of local government issues related to the existing ATR policies that we feel need to be addressed.
First, local governments would like to work cooperatively with the province, the federal government, and first nations governments with respect to ATR. We have to work together. No one body has the answer. As we work together on this, we'll come to a solution that we feel works. Local governments, however, were only asked to provide written comments. Moreover, regional districts were not acknowledged or recognized in the ATR legislation and process. This approach does not ensure that local government issues and interests are understood so that a proper decision can be made by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
Secondly, we feel strongly that there should be a timeline to review and comment on ATR applications. The process should include multi-party forums to further observe, inform, and discuss the respective and possible competing interests, such as land use designations.
Third, the ATR application process does not recognize the cost of the process to local governments or to first nations. The ATR application process requires the expenditure of time and human and financial resources by both local government and first nations. This issue is exasperated by the impact that an addition to a reserve has when it involves lands within a local government's boundaries. Local governments can be financially impacted in a negative way by the ATR. Therefore, funding from the crown is essential for ensuring that local governments are properly engaged in the ATR process.
Fourth, the ATR process can work to undermine the treaty process. Additional ATRs mean potentially fewer incentives for first nations to pursue treaty negotiations. For example, the Squamish First Nation has not negotiated treaties since 2000, but instead has pursued ATR both within and outside the Metro Vancouver region. Additionally, the Musqueam Band has not negotiated treaties since 2005 and is currently pursuing ATR.
And lastly, it is also not clear under the current ATR process how local governments and first nations can and will resolve their disputes, including land use issues. In 2012, Metro Vancouver identified the need for an appropriate mechanism for resolving these disputes resulting from ATR or disputes that impede the progress of the ATR application.
Moving forward to 2013, I would like to address some of the local government concerns with the revised policy. The draft ATR policy allows first nations to add to an existing reserve for economic development purposes. Metro Vancouver recognizes the potential for market development on first nations lands to be mutually beneficial to aboriginal communities and their neighbouring governments.
I think that's important to note. Metro Vancouver recognizes that the potential market development on first nations lands can be mutually beneficial for aboriginal communities and their neighbouring local governments. Again, we can be in it together.
However, the federal government and first nations applying for ATR need to be made aware of the multiple barriers local governments face in providing services to Indian reserves, including legal, physical, and fiscal capacity related to utility servicing. Regional and municipal interests must be recognized in the ATR approval process to ensure that if an applicant first nation receives approval to add lands to its reserves, utility services will be available and an alignment exists between the first nation's objectives and regional and municipal interests.
Further, the draft ATR policy allows first nations to add lands to reserve even when those lands are outside the first nation's traditional territory, as long as the majority of the first nation's existing reserve land is located within the province or territory. This policy change may result in a significant increase in the number of ATR applications in Metro Vancouver, where first nations from across B.C. could potentially purchase and add lands to reserves for the purpose of pursuing economic development opportunities close to highways and urban centres. These economic development opportunities may not align with local governments' obligations under statute. For example, in B.C., the Local Government Act requires that all works and services provided by the regional district be consistent with Metro Vancouver's regional growth strategy. All bylaws adopted by the board and all services undertaken by Metro Vancouver must be consistent with that regional growth strategy. Metro Vancouver may therefore be precluded from providing services to lands added to reserves that first nations intend to use in a manner inconsistent with the regional growth strategy. This is because pursuant to the Local Government Act, Metro Vancouver must conform to that regional growth strategy.
Further, providing services to non-contiguous reserve lands presents a major challenge for local governments, considering the existing legislative and jurisdictional barriers to servicing non-treaty first nations lands, such as established regional and municipal policies and regulatory requirements, bylaw adoption and enforcement on Indian reserve lands, and environmental and financial liabilities.
When an ATR has been approved, local government land use bylaws, zoning, and related enforcement are no longer applicable on that land. The first nation has the authority to determine how to use its reserve lands according to the needs and interests of its community. At this present time, as a prerequisite to ATR approval, first nations must negotiate areas of joint land use planning and bylaw harmonization with neighbouring local governments. However, that requirement, which is contained in the current ATR policy, is no longer clearly stated in the revised policy.
Local governments are required to recover the full costs of all local services, including the costs of regional services and regional transportation services. The provisions of the regional growth strategy limit the exposure to develop, and ensure that regional taxpayers do not end up paying for the costs of projects not contemplated in the regional growth strategy.
Regional servicing issues, including the collection and remittance of all requisite Metro Vancouver property taxes and development cost charges....
Harmonization and servicing agreements with neighbouring local governments should be included in the policy as a condition of ATR proposal approval.
Further, the ATR policy should be amended to ensure that long-term uses of the proposed ATR lands are compatible with municipal and regional land uses and consistent with the land use proposed in the original ATR proposal. This amendment would serve to protect agricultural lands and ensure that any non-contiguous additions will not lead to conflicting land use for local governments. Planning proposals and structures developed under the official community plans and regional growth strategies are entrenched in provincial legislation. Local governments are required to adhere to these processes.
The revised policy no longer reflects the 90-day review period. Instead, the applicant first nation is required to notify the affected local government in writing of the reserve creation proposal to give the local government an opportunity to assess any potential impacts of the proposal on their existing land use plans and service delivery.
In the absence of a specific timeline, it is unclear whether local government input will be considered in the review process. In order for regional districts and municipalities to consider a proposal for ATR, it is necessary to process the proposals in accordance with the procedures imposed on local governments by applicable legislation.
Those procedures include notice requirements and time limitations that must be adhered to by the local government . As a result, the institution of any time periods included in the ATR must take those restrictions into account. It is therefore critical that the federal government amend the draft policy to require early, meaningful, and timely consultation with the impacted local governments. A new ATR policy should provide local governments with the 90-day review period similar to what is afforded to the province. This amendment would provide certainty that local governments will be fully considered during the ATR proposal process.
Dispute resolution mechanisms also need to be included in the policy, including dispute resolution assistance from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to assist first nations and local governments in resolving disputes that may arise between them during these negotiations.
The guide titled Communities in Cooperation: A Guide to Alternative Dispute Resolution for First Nations & Local Governments in BC, prepared for the B.C. First Nations Summit and Union of British Columbia Municipalities, outlines a dispute resolution process that we feel may benefit the revised ATR policy. As well, the dispute resolution chapters of the recent treaty final agreements in B.C. can also provide some examples of clearly outlined dispute resolution processes.
As reserve lands are exclusively federal land, they are outside of local governments' regulatory and taxation authority. Any outstanding legislative and jurisdictional concerns relating to local governments' inability to apply and enforce utility bylaws on Indian reserves may hinder the progress in negotiations between local governments and first nations. Without effective regulatory tools, local governments are exposed to financial, environmental, and public health liability if a problem arises with a local government service provided to reserve lands. These regulatory and jurisdictional complexities need to be taken into consideration when revising language around the consultation and dispute resolution process.
Thank you for your kind attention. That concludes my presentation.
As time allows, I'd be happy to answer any questions.