The British Columbia government has pledged to share some of the pie and more of the power with Indigenous communities across the province.
All B.C. First Nations will receive a share of provincial gaming revenues, Premier John Horgan announced Thursday as he opened the annual gathering between B.C.’s cabinet and First Nations leaders.
“This is a promise made over 20 years ago that has not yet been fulfilled until now,” Horgan told the gathering in Vancouver.
Horgan and the First Nations Leadership Council also announced they’ll be working together on new legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with introduction of the law planned for sometime in 2019.
The revenue-sharing arrangement will be a key part of the February 2019 provincial budget, Horgan said, but final details were still being worked out so he could not release exact figures.
“It will be big,” the premier said. “Somewhere between one and a whole bunch.”
The premier said the annual funding will be used in First Nations communities for social services, education, housing, infrastructure, health and well being and economic development.
Both announcements are important steps forward to advance true and lasting reconciliation, Horgan said.
“As we develop reconciliation, as we develop legislation around (the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) that will mean all laws in British Columbia will have a lens of how will it affect our First peoples, how will it affect those who have been here for millennium.”
The declaration was adopted by the United Nations in 2007 as an international instrument that enshrined minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous Peoples around the world.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations said the announcements are “historic and progressive action” to address issues related to jurisdiction and gaming revenue.
Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit political executive said the announcements were critical pieces toward reconciliation.
“B.C. First Nations and the government have finally landed on a renewed vision and plan for reconciling Aboriginal title and rights, with asserted Crown title and jurisdiction,” Casimer said.
The plan acknowledges inherent rights of self-determination, as well as rights to land, resources and territories, she said, adding both sides must work together based on a new set of principles and values rather than the old colonial standard of denial.
First Nations Summit member Robert Phillips said they’ve been fighting for gaming revenue for decades, and he commended the decision to share the profits.
“If we have prosperous First Nations that will mean extra revenues … which will mean jobs, which will mean revenue for buying vehicles, houses, all of those things. We have to remember that.”