- Category: news
- Created: Wednesday, 18 September 2013 13:01
- Published: Wednesday, 18 September 2013 13:01
- Written by Administrator 3
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By Kim Pemberton, Vancouver Sun
Municipalities and their First Nations neighbours must get to know one another better to form positive working relationships, a Union of B.C. Municipalities workshop heard Monday.
Business dealings between First Nations and their non-native counterparts are sometimes fractious and could become more so as First Nations move to gain autonomy and economic self-sufficiency.
The issue flared during the workshop when a native leader told delegates some municipalities are denying services that would help First Nations move ahead economically.
Chief Ed John from First Nations Summit said he didn’t want to “name names,” but in an interview afterward he told The Vancouver Sun he was referring problems between the Tsawwassen First Nation and Delta. The First Nation is having trouble moving ahead with its economic plans after Delta refused to provide it with sewage services for its planned residential and commercial projects.
“They (Tsawwassen First Nation) need water and sewage service and that infrastructure is being denied. (Delta city council) are limiting the ability of a First Nation to establish an economic base.”
Delta Mayor Lois Jackson, who was at the UBCM workshop, said afterward she was “really insulted” by John’s comments.
“He should get his facts straight. We’ve studied this every way but we do not have the capacity in our existing sewer pipe to fully service their lands.”
She said Tsawwassen First Nation can build its own stand-alone sewage system.
Panelist John Rustad, B.C. minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation, said local governments need to start asking what they can do to advance their relationship with their neighbouring First Nations communities.
“They (municipal governments) need to get to know their counterparts in First Nations government. You need to have a relationship that lasts. Once you get to know their hopes and values, you’ll find you have a lot in common.”
He said the first step toward that is creating a communications plan.
But John said First Nation communities still feel they are on the outside and little effort is made by municipal governments to get to know First Nations counterparts.
John said it is starting to happen more frequently in northern B.C., where the chiefs and mayors get together once a year to talk about issues of mutual concern, such as pipelines, but it could be happening more elsewhere in B.C.
“There’s nothing but an upside to having a dialogue on these issues. Without dialogue you have suspicion and mistrust,” he said.
Stephen Munro, B.C.’s deputy minister for aboriginal relations and reconciliation, said the province realizes it has to work with First Nations communities for the benefit of all British Columbians.
“Our approach is government to government relationships based on respect and reconciliation. It’s about avoiding conflict,” he said.
“First Nations communities need to be full participants in the economy and everyone recognizes that … they bring a lot to the table and not just land and resources, but human resources.”
Tsawwassen First Nation acting chief administrator Tom McCarthy, in an interview, said for the past 18 months they have been looking at their options with respect to sewage service needs and Delta is one of those options. But they are also looking at working with Vancouver or building their own system.
Asked to characterize the relationship between themselves and Delta, McCarthy said: “I think it’s safe to say Delta and TFN may not agree on every issue but we have very different backgrounds. It’s not to say we aren’t good neighbours.”
He pointed out they have nine service agreements in place with Delta, which provides TFN with such things as fire, police, and parks and recreation services, to name a few.