Leadership hopefuls need to address aboriginal issues

Eight years ago, the provincial Liberal government promised a new relationship with the province's aboriginal people. But the status of that commitment continues to remain uncertain, with the party's leadership candidates having rarely spoken about aboriginal issues during the race to succeed Gordon Campbell. Even though two of them served as aboriginal relations and reconciliation ministers, even though settling aboriginal land claims is one of the major economic issues in British Columbia, even though aboriginal poverty is one of the major social issues in British Columbia, the candidates have only made broad statements about those issues. And they weren't even included as topics during yesterday's leadership debate.

In effect, the candidates are ignoring the 4.8 percent of the province's population who - according to the 2006 census - are aboriginal and instead wooing the 1.9 of the population who have paid $10 to become Liberals. Now I'm sure there are some who would say there's no votes to be had among aboriginals. I'm sure there are some who would say aboriginals don't vote Liberal. I'm sure there are some who would say aboriginals are more likely to cast their ballots for the New Democrats. But that's not the point.

The point is as long as our political leaders treat aboriginal as a separate part of British Columbia, we will never be a whole British Columbia. And that means speaking to aboriginal issues during party leadership races - whether there's votes to be had in that community or not.

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