Yesterday, Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs president Stewart Phillip announced his support for the provincial New Democrats. But, three years ago, speaking at the provincial Liberal biennial convention in Penticton, he described Premier Gordon Campbell as "an exceptional, extraordinary, visionary leader." Asked about that apparent contradiction, Grand Chief Phillip stated, "It's interesting how people interpret an individual's public comments and so on and so forth. I think what the press automatically assumed after I made those statements in Penticton in 2006 that somehow I'd become a born-again BC Liberal or something along those lines. But that's not the case."
"As long as I'm on this land and on Mother Earth I will never endorse the values and principles of the BC Liberals. They just live in a different world then we live in. And my concerns have always been about children, child poverty has increased. And, during the Liberal time in office, in terms of children and family issues for aboriginal people, the children in care have dramatically increased and remain a major concern of ours. Homelessness is up. We certainly don't support the run of the river projects whereby hundreds and hundreds of rivers and streams in B.C. are being privatized. And we don't support the BC Liberal ongoing support for the toxic fish farms that proliferate the cost," he continued.
"However, having said that, I believe that when government leaders and, in this case, when premiers make the correct decision they need to be recognized for that. And, when Premier Campbell came into our territory here in Penticton in 2006 and I was asked to make opening remarks and to welcome the premier into our territory I took the opportunity to express our appreciation for that bold and courageous and visionary position he took on the outstanding aboriginal title issue in British Columbia. And I continue to support Premier Campbell with respect to the Recognition and Reconciliation Act."
So would he still describe the Liberal leader asking a visionary approach when it comes to addressing First Nations concerns? "I think, in terms of the aboriginal title issue - the unresolved aboriginal title issue - I do believe he does. There's no question about that. I think, in part, the statement I made in 2006 was directed at the BC Liberal Party itself and caucus as much as Premier Campbell. Because we do know and sense there are some divisions, some uncertainty within caucus and cabinet. And I wanted to send a clear message to those people that may have different views then Premier Campbell that this initiative - and certainly this legislative initiative - not only requires the full support of caucus and cabinet but it requires the full support of the Opposition."