The perils of the Nisga’a ‘parallel state’

"Two wrongs don't make a right," says Saanich reader

Re: Nisga’a proving critics wrong (B.C. Views, Dec. 3).

Tom Fletcher seems to have had an epiphany that’s led to his urging acceptance of Supreme Court of Canada rulings which enabled the creation by the Nisga’a Nation of (Fletcher’s words) “a parallel state” in B.C.

Fletcher may never have learned that “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The first long-standing wrong at issue is the sorry treatment of aboriginals in both B.C. and across Canada. Despite significant improvements over recent years, more remains to be done.

The second wrong is that the Supreme Court of Canada now enables a new layer of government in B.C. What’s been created is a “landed gentry” of sorts who have, in effect, received authority to exercise sovereign powers. They now plan to establish multiple export-enabling liquid natural gas terminals on the B.C. coast.

B.C. taxpayers will follow such developments with interest, particularly if there is no parallel commitment by the Nisga’a to assume increasing responsibility for both federal and provincial government services, as their “parallel state” business plans prove profitable.

The old adage that “there’s only one taxpayer” could, with Nisga’a concurrence, remain a truism. It’s based on the realization that whether it’s for services provided by local, provincial or federal governments, most voters and elected leaders have long recognized it’s the voting taxpayer who determines both government funding levels and program priorities.

Unanswered questions include: Will this aboriginal “parallel state” acknowledge a responsibility to participate – within its anticipated capability – as a fully functional entity within our national federation?

Will it fund a portion of the many provincial and federal government services it now receives?

Will it commit to creating and funding its self-determined unique government service programs?

Historical antipathy between First Nations, local, provincial and federal agencies indicates a need for strong, but flexible leadership at all four governmental levels.

In seeking a comprehensive governmental rebalancing, we’ll hopefully avoid historically based emotional rhetoric supporting retributive rationale if we’re to minimize costly, confrontational negotiations.

In B.C., our often-envied Canadian cultural mosaic is at risk of becoming a dysfunctional and tattered societal quilt.

Ron Johnson

Saanich