A provincial New Democrat executive member and former candidate has quit the party over its "marginalization of Indigenous peoples, communities, voices and issues." In a letter exclusively obtained by Public Eye, Troy Sebastian - a member of the Ktunaxa Nation - made it clear he wasn't renouncing his membership because of party leader Carole James, who is Metis. "Her warmth, friendship and support towards me in the nine years I have known her would be remarkable enough; that she has not changed at all since becoming leader is a testament to who she is," the now former executive member-at-large wrote. But, he stated, "the indifference and privilege that the party demonstrates towards Indigenous peoples is shameful" - especially for a "party that so effortlessly espouses social justice as a core principle and consistently fails to address these issues."
"Consider how many Indigenous voices there are within the BCNDP." Writing on the eve of this past weekend's provincial council meeting, Mr. Sebastian asked members of the party's governing body to "look around the room and determine if Indigenous peoples are represented."
"Where are the Xeni Gwet'in? Where are the Esquimalt or Songhees? Do you hear the voice of the Secwepmec or Okanagan? Does it even matter to the party? After fourteen years of active involvement I cannot see that it does."
He also took issue with the New Democrats's handling of the BC Conservative's commitment to opposing aboriginal title in the government's proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act.
"That a party could espouse such ignorant vitriol towards Indigenous peoples without a response from the BCNDP was highly disappointing," wrote Mr. Sebastian, who was the New Democrat candidate in East Kootenay during the last election - the same riding Conservative leader Wilf Hanni ran in.
"For me, it illustrated how the party is bereft of understanding of the issue and complacent towards any notion of change. I asked the party to respond. The party chose to ignore it. I cannot fathom the privilege that would produce this sort of reasoning," he stated.
But, in concluding the letter, he extended an olive branch to the New Democrats: "I ask that this letter be read not as a mean-spirited challenge to the party or its values, but as a difficult and personal decision. I can no longer subsume my Indigenousness in order to be a member of this party. I look forward to a day when the BCNDP stands in unequivocal solidarity with Indigenous peoples in this land."
In response, the party's aboriginal relations and reconciliation critic Scott Fraser stated, "His concerns resonate loud and true with me."
"I know Troy well and I very much respect his letter," the critic continued. "We do this to each other. We challenge each other. And I consider this a challenge. And I'm going to try to live up to that."