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."