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LETTER: Proposed amendments will radically alter management of B.C. Crown lands

(Black Press Media file photo)

It is time for all of us to talk about the elephant in the room.

We must collectively cease making decisions on First Nations issues that are based on emotion and a sense of guilt and start making collective decisions on First Nations issues based on reason, reality, and democracy.

It is possible to do; we can all live and work and prosper in a fair and equitable British Columbia. We can achieve that with leadership from a government that fosters cooperation, acts democratically, exercises authority responsibly, and ends the pitting of one group against another.

The proposed amendments that are about to be put in place by the NDP government to change the Lands Act will result in nothing short of anarchy when it comes to our future management of B.C.’s Crown lands.

These proposed amendments will remove government authority and democratic responsibility, by legislating that First Nations have joint decision-making with the provincial government respecting Crown Land issues on mining, hydro projects, farming, forestry, docks and water licences and communication towers, etc.

Effectively the NDP proposals are an abrogation of government’s democratic authority and public accountability and create a veto power for First Nations on future Crown land issue matters with zero public accountability.

We should recognize the likelihood and indeed fear that these amendments if enacted foreshadow a new era of land use in B.C. Businesses, individuals, organizations, and even government itself when seeking approvals on Crown land matters will be forced to placate First Nations’ demands to get approvals, with whatever it takes.

In British Columbia 94% of the land is provincial Crown land, (2% of which is covered by fresh water). Federal Crown land makes up a further 1% of the province, while 5% is privately owned. First Nations represent approximately 6% of the population of British Columbia, with more than 200 distinct First Nations bands throughout B.C.

First Nations leaders have a duty and responsibility to represent their memberships and their communities and are accountable to their constituents. The NDP provincial government has forgotten that government has a duty and responsibility to represent 100% of British Columbians, including First Nations.

Let me suggest to you (based on my experiences as a former MLA) that these amendments have already been drafted and will be introduced in April after a sham consultation from the public ends on March 31.

There will be many good people as they discover this, who will raise concerns and make submissions over the process, the lack of consultation and questioning the rationale or need for these changes.

The NDP is effectively taking the will of the people out of decision-making on Crown lands and transferring that authority, and government responsibility, to 6% of our population who are unelected and not accountable to 94% of the general population.

This is about the intent and consequences of these NDP amendments and the intent and resulting consequences are undemocratic, irresponsible, and unprecedented in the history of our province.

It is clear to me today that B.C.’s NDP government is incapable of making decisions and exercising its authority on behalf of all citizens. They simply don’t get it.

Steve Orcherton, former MLA



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