Members of the Union of B.C. Municipalities have passsed a resolution brought forward by the Cariboo Regional District seeking provincial support for local governments in implementing the province’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’s Act.
The request will now go to the provincial government in Victoria and CRD board chair Margo Wagner said a lot is at stake for local taxpayers throughout the province.
If the province does not come back with a positive response, the regional governments will have to finance ongoing consultations and efforts to recognize and implement the United Nation’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples out of their own coffers.
“It would come out of probably electoral area administration which we also tax for, which means the taxpayer gets hit again,” Wagner said in an interview with the 100 Mile Free Press shortly after the resolution passed Thursday at the UBCM’s annual convention in Vancouver.
The United Nations endorsed UNDRIP in 2007 and called on member nations to put in place the laws and programs needed to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples within their territories. In November 2019, the DRIPA enacting legislation was unanimously passed by members of the provincial legislative Assembly, making B.C. the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The legislation serves as the province’s framework for reconciliation, as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action following the commission’s years-long investigation into the history of residential schools in Canada.
The DRIPA Action Plan contains 89 priority actions to be fulfilled over five years and has four main goals: Self-Determination and Inherent Right of Self-Government, Title and Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ending Indigenous-specific Racism and Discrimination and Social, Cultural and Economic Well-Being.
The resolution brought forward by the district and passed by UBCM delegates asks the provincial government to provide timely clarification, support, and involvement for local governments’ role in advancing commitments to reconciliation and UNDRIP when fulfilling their statutory obligations under relevant provincial legislation.
Wagner said there has not bee a lot of clarification from the province on how local governments are going achieve this and who is going to pay for it.
There are 15 First Nations in the Cariboo region, three of whom are currently in the final phases of treaty negotiations, she pointed out. Those include several Secwépemc, Tŝilhqot’in, and Dakelh communities.
There is work that needs to be done to develop working relationships with all of them because when the region runs into emergencies like what was experienced this summer in the west and northwest, it’s important the First Nations governments and the CRD work together to make sure that residents are safe and protective services are provided, Wagner said.
The modern B.C. treaty process has been glacially slow. Wagner said the CRD hopes to have representatives of First Nations government on the CRD board regardless of whether or where they are in that process.
The district would like to have First Nations representatives be an integral part moving forward in understanding how each other’s governments work, she said. They will have to learn to work together, something that is not going to happen if they only meet once or twice a year, she said.
In particular, a new emergency program is expected this fall that will require a significant amount of municipal engagement with First Nations, she pointed out.
Like all municipalities, the Cariboo Regional District relies on taxpayer money to provide services in the district, she added.
“So what part of money are we taking this out of?” asked Wagner. “First Nations do not always have the capability, the money to come into Williams Lake, Quesnel, etc. It is better if we try to go out to their territories some of the time, like a 50/50 split but who is going to pay for this? Where are the funds coming from.”
The resolution was one of five brought forward by the CRD, all of which were endorsed by municipal leaders at the annual meeting and now form official policy for the UBCM.
Those resolutions include the UBCM lobbying the provincial government to allow individual property owners to make exclusion applications to the Agricultural Land Commission, rather than through local governments. That would be a return to the original process, which was changed by the current government in September 2020. Only local governments can currently make such applications.
The union will ask the province, as suggested by the Cariboo district, to require provincial approving officers to notify rural residents of subdivision applications in their areas and to end the use of the Canadian Black Book as the basis for setting provincial sales tax on used vehicles, instead of actual sale prices.
It will also seek to have the provincial government include local governments in the planning proess for broadband and internet improvements in their areas.
Wagner said she was pleased that all of the CRD’s resolutions were endorsed.
“By working together, we will achieve results that will benefit both the Cariboo region and the rest of the province,” she said in a statement announcing the UBCM results.
The North Central Local Government Association, which represents local governments from 100 Mile House north to the B.C. Yukon border, endorsed the same resolutions at their convention in May.