Thank you very much.
I was last here 10 years ago to talk about the exact same subject matter, but in a different context. I was here to get the Government of Canada to support LNG development in B.C.
I'll open up by saying that I'm not here to ask for money. I'm not here to debate the Indian Act. I'm not here for any of that, because.... Ultimately, what I'm after is independence for my band and the surrounding bands. The only way we can do that is by engaging in resource development for LNG, forestry and mining.
I'm here to tell you that the issues my band faced 10 years ago are non-existent today, because of our engagement. We were one of the few bands that went from being one of the poorest nations in B.C. to one of the wealthiest, including through land acquirement. We don't talk about poverty, welfare or unemployment insurance anymore. We don't even talk about the Indian Act.
We talk about what's next. We talk about the idea that since we're already fully engaged in the economy and society of B.C., what else can we do? This means independence at the band council level, which doesn't need Ottawa money anymore. It doesn't need the B.C. government anymore, right down to the individual, including the single mom and the guy who just got out of prison at the age of 55 and wants to stay out of prison—a good friend of mine.
Unfortunately, the word we're talking about here today—“reconciliation”—has been misused for the last 10 years for every single political issue under the sun, while ignoring the dreadful shame that is Canada's, meaning aboriginals who are stuck in prison or kids going to government care or poverty and the violence of poverty and ultimately suicide.
“Reconciliation” had a definition in the case law that was decided pursuant to section 35 of the Constitution. It was decided. This was all worked out, right up until the Haida court case of 2004. Now the word “reconciliation” has been misused to the point where nobody knows what it means anymore. It's been twisted around, and yet, time after time, in example after example, we see the results of what true reconciliation means, as dictated by the courts of B.C. in Canada. It's a shame. It's an absolute shame that it has come to this.
In your deliberations when you're talking about developing an act to talk about reconciliation, I ask that you look at the issues facing aboriginals all across Canada in terms of the unemployment rate and how it hasn't succeeded. Look as well at bands like mine, at how they've succeeded, and at how they're trying to make that spread across B.C. to neighbouring first nations communities.
There is reconciliation happening at the political and economic levels among first nations, because not every first nation has had the advantage of my first nation. It's all based on location—location, location, location. These are age-old differences that go back to way before white contact.
My message to you today is about what not to do. I wish you'd talk, in your deliberations, about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, something I opposed when it first came to Canada over 10 years ago. I opposed it in B.C., but I voted for it, because I didn't want my party to be labelled as racist.
If you follow the lead of B.C., you will be doing a disservice not only to first nations in Canada but also to the general society, because that was an unrealistic political statement made by the B.C. government. They have not lived up to a single promise or commitment they made in UNDRIP—what they now call “DRIPA”.
To give you an idea of how unrealistic this is, they promised to consult every band in B.C. on every single piece of legislation that passed through the legislature. They also promised to align every single law in B.C. with UNDRIP. That is impossible. It's unrealistic, but they claimed they could do it. Now, their answers are.... Some of the legislation going through has not gone through a consultation process with first nations communities—the true rights and title holders, by the way. Instead, they went and talked to advocacy groups.
The other thing they did was provide notice of legislation to first nations—203 bands. That is not consultation, as dictated by the courts. They also conceded that legislation and some of the bills passed through the House did not have rights entitlement infringement questions involved with them, so they did not notify first nations.
That is not what they promised in the legislature. It was a political statement. They have not actually realized one commitment in UNDRIP. A lot of the DRIP Act in B.C. was redundant and meaningless.
By that I mean that every first nation has the right to save their language. We knew that. Every first nation has the right to save their culture. We knew that. We didn't need legislation to tell us that.
The redundancy I'm talking about is the idea that Canada is a lot further ahead than other nations around the world, including with section 35 of the Constitution. Canada is one of the few countries that recognized rights and included them in their constitutions. Yes, it took a long time to define that in the courts. One of the greatest things that happened was the court case that came down in 2004—the Haida court case that fully defined the duty of government and the responsibilities of first nations to respond, in a meaningful manner, when the Crown comes to consult on infringement issues.
It was working. From 2004 to 2017, it was working. The economy was going well with LNG, forestry and mining. First nations, more importantly, were getting involved and getting ahead. It didn't do anything to society. If anything, it strengthened our society. It strengthened B.C. In B.C., that has all now been put aside for the sake of politics. There are no drilling permits for LNG. They are actually going to shut down forestry, at opposition of first nations.
Those are my comments. Thank you very much.