Smoke signals

Last week, the British Columbia Treaty Commission's annual report noted the Lheidli T'enneh and the Tsawwassen First Nation "have concluded final treaty negotiations" with the British Columbia and federal governments. And the Maa-nulth First Nations "are seeking to conclude their agreement." As part of that process, those agreements will have to be approved by the provincial legislature. But that vote won't be unanimous. In an interview on Public Eye Radio, government backbencher Dennis MacKay confirmed he "won't be supporting the treaties. I have to say I won't be supporting the treaties. I don't think the treaties are the way to go. We've got to do something differently. We've had 150 some odd years of natives living on reserves that are described as rural ghettos. And I don't think we should perpetuate them by treaties."

"I don't think we should continue to live apart. And that's what's going to happen if we continue down the road with treaties...We're either going to be all British Columbians and Canadians or I don't know what British Columbia will be called in the future if we continue down the road with treaties," added the Bulkley Valley-Stikine MLA.

Asked to elaborate, Mr. MacKay explained "For the most part, I agree with everything we've done as a government. But I've always had this thing about native issues. I don't believe that the treaties are the way to go. I've seen the poverty. I've seen the nepotism that takes place on reserves. And I've seen the lack of accountability on reserves. And, I'm sorry, but I just cannot see myself clear to give something by way of treaty just because they happen to be born a native Indian."

"My children and other people's children work extremely hard for what they get. They pay taxes. And nothing is being given to them - even though we're the ones that pay for this. Nothing in life is free. Everything that we've got - our healthcare system, our education system, the roads that we drive on, the powerlines that bring power to our homes - they're all paid for by our tax dollars. And we all contribute to that. But our native Indians have been exempt from paying taxes since we've had treaties."

"I've always had trouble getting my head around why we look at a treaty that was signed 250 years ago when taxes probably didn't exist - and if they did they might have been by way of pelts or something. I don't know. But to say that a treaty that was signed off 250 years ago has any resembelance or any actual bearing on today's society is ludicrous."

Mr. MacKay said he expects "to have some support" from fellow caucus members when the treaties come up for a vote in the legislature. "But it certainly won't be enough to make any difference."

6 Comments

For nearly a year now, Georgia Straight columnist and self-proclaimed Mid-east expert Terry Glavin has been aggressively promoting the New Gordon Campbell, the one who is pro-Aboriginal, in contrast to the Old Gordon Campbell who was opposed to the Nisga'a Treaty. I wonder how Terry will incorporate men like Dennis MacKay into his never ending Vote Liberal treatise?

So what are the options to modern treaties? Here are the three ideas,I brought to the Provincial Standing Committee, and the Regional Advisory Committee, as a member of that committee( now shut down thanks to Campbell and Co.)
1. Status Quo. Hasn't worked so far, business can't move in any area around first nations/ Indian areas. Nor can first nation folks or anyone close to or on "land set aside" Imagine having a section of the act( sect 28) that says a agreement written or oral by a Indian is not legal. The court cases continue to pile up.

2. Changes to Indian Act. Lots of talk of changes over the years, with very little changes as some vested interests talk one way but as content not to change anything so back to step one for those guys. The present government is talking of changing the Act to cover property ownership by Indian women. Don't hold your breath.
3. Modern Treaties. The Supreme Court of Canada has said. "To claim title you prove it in court( slow, costly and often you lose) or negotiate that" bundle of rights" that to date are not defined. Pretty easy to understand the ideas but I recall raising the issues well before the Nisga'a Agreement in principal was developed.

As for who is fronting for who. Let me remind ourselves that Brain Smith, ex Socred Minister, pressed hard and often on the issue of certainty. There is none now. Accountability was used often by all sides. No accountability in lots of places as of today. Terry Glavin isn't the enemy, we have seen the enemy as Pogo said. The enemy is us. am I Liberal or Socred? You got to be kidding
The Treaty Commission exists, not to negotiate but to administer some issues. The annual reports are always full of hope, but not much else. Most citizens simply shrug and say ,to heck with it, it will never end. It has to end or things won't improve for the women and kids, the people with no motivation to get things done, the local governments with reserves in their territory but not their jurisdiction. The list goes on.

Enough is enough. I agree with Dennis MacKay and the majority of British Columbians do too I think. Funny that right thinking members like Dennis MacKay go nowhere in this government and even Rich Coleman has been demoted since the last election. Just goes to show how Campbell/Taylor are marginalizing the Conservatives so that they can make a play for the left-wing Liberal vote.
The BC Liberal party is just that. It is not for Conservatives anymore.

Mr MacKay sounds deeply conflicted on this issue: Is he concerned about the welfare and interests of Aboriginal people (tackling poverty vs. creating ghettoes & social divisions, etc) or is he really more concerned about "giving away" for "free" certain things he believes belong to him and his hard-working, tax-paying children?

MacKay talks about nepotism and other weaknesses of reserve politics. This is a real problem with any small voter group, especially when the powers that be can control who's eligible to vote.
Campbell has had a conversion on the road to Damascus as Mike Harcourt said.

Too bad Dennis McKay didn't elaborate a bit more on that "treaty signed 250 years ago"...

That a man who claims he can represent north western BC hasn't the foggiest about treaties or the lack of them, is simply mind boggling. It's frightening that such ignorance can be passed of as some form of intellectual discourse.
What other subjects does this man know so little about yet lug so loudly through the media spotlight?

BTW, Indians in BC (until recently) have only been able to dream of any treaty to be signed for the past 250 years or so.

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