(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver - March 17, 2015) – Ten years ago, on March 17, 2005, an historic Leadership Accord was signed by the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), First Nations Summit (FNS) and Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), formalizing a collaborative working relationship among the three First Nations political territorial organizations in BC that had not existed previously.
The Leadership Accord committed our organizations to work together in the spirit of mutual respect and continued cooperation for the benefit of all First Nations in BC. Since 2005, we have undertaken such important work through the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which comprises the elected Executive members of each organization.
Today, each organization continues to share a common goal—to secure the recognition and full implementation of all First Nations’ Aboriginal title, rights and treaty rights, and to continually improve the wellbeing of Nations and their citizens. A significant accomplishment of the past decade has been the FNLC’s ongoing work to elevate First Nations’ issues as critical public policy issues, and to develop capacity by supporting First Nations communities and establishing and supporting First Nations organizations (FNOs). Incredible strides have been made over the last ten years in sectors such as health, education and natural resources. Likewise, First Nations have themselves undertaken the difficult work of building and rebuilding strong and appropriate governance, and improving the health and wellbeing of their own communities. The FNLC continues to support this critical work.
The collective accomplishments of First Nations in BC, the FNLC, and FNOs over the last ten years demonstrate the strong and sustained will of our leadership to advocate that the status quo is wholly unacceptable, and that our solutions have and will continue to make valuable contributions to our own communities and the broader Canadian society, strengthening relationships and the economy. On the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Leadership Accord, the FNLC celebrates the successes of our citizen and communities, and our achievement of a collaborative working relationship. However, we remain acutely aware of the challenges that exist, and the need to continue to drive dialogue amongst First Nations and with both Canada and British Columbia in order to ensure action and the necessary advancements that provide space for our Nations to succeed.
Despite progress in recent years, too many First Nations communities continue to experience disproportionately higher rates of poverty, marginalization, and inequality due to the historic dispossession from our lands and territories, our original sources of health, culture, and wealth. Today, the overrepresentation of our children in the foster care system, and the unacceptably high rates of violence and discrimination against Indigenous women and girls, are a testament to the continuing legacy of colonialism and the ongoing challenges we face.
Last September, BC Chiefs in Assembly brought forward to the BC Cabinet and First Nations Leadership Gathering, four principles for a renewed and transformed relationship with the Provincial Government:
1. Acknowledgement that all our relationships are based on recognition and implementation of the existence of indigenous peoples inherent title and rights, and pre-confederation, historic and modern treaties, throughout British Columbia.
2. Acknowledgement that Indigenous systems of governance and laws are essential to the regulation of lands and resources throughout British Columbia.
3. Acknowledgement of the mutual responsibility that all of our government systems shall shift to relationships, negotiations and agreements based on recognition.
4. We immediately must move to consent based decision-making and title based fiscal relations, including revenue sharing, in our relationships, negotiations and agreements.
These principles reflect the direction of First Nations leadership in BC, and the successes First Nations have achieved in the courts and elsewhere, including the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Tsilhqot’in case. The FNLC is encouraged by the ability and resolve of First Nations in BC to unite around these principles, which provide a solid underpinning to the work that the FNLC will carry out in 2015 and beyond, both with respect to engagement with the Province and with Canada.
Ultimately, the challenges and opportunities facing First Nations communities are interconnected, and achieving results for First Nations communities requires continued collaboration. After ten years, there is still much work ahead of us.
For further comment please contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs: 604-684-0231
Howard Grant, Executive Director, First Nations Summit: 604-926-4094
Courtney Daws, Director of Operations, BC Assembly of First Nations: 604-922-7733