Developing authentic relationships built on trust and understanding is essential to reconciliation with First Nations, and reconciliation must be a priority for all of us according to Green candidate Sonia Furstenau.
“First Nation communities have been living on the West Coast for well over 10,000 years, and it is essential that we recognize the extraordinary wisdom and knowledge that brings. We will all do better when we find ways to work together with respect,” she said. “We also need to recognize the incredible injustices that have happened since the arrival of European settlers, and acknowledge the harm that has been done, particularly by the residential school system.”
Families need to be supported so that this pattern is not repeated, she added.
The fact that many indigenous people live in poverty is not acceptable, and “we must develop and fund an assertive strategy to ensure that everyone in B.C., including First Nations, can thrive,” Furstenau said.
NDP candidate Lori Iannidinardo said reconciliation with First Nations is critical in Cowichan and beyond.
“It starts with listening and respectful dialogue, honouring what the Cowichan people can teach us,” she said, noting a B.C. NDP government would implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and the U.N. Declaration for Indigenous Rights.
“Action on reconciliation will be a cross-government priority. Aboriginal title and rights, a matter of law and justice, will be respected.”
The chronic underfunding of delegated aboriginal agencies has to stop, Iannidinardo added.
“An NDP government will ensure First Nations agencies can offer First Nations children the same level of core services available to others because quality of life should be a right for every child. When a First Nations child does enter care, we will work to ensure their culture and community remain the focus in their lives.
All levels of government must work together… and repair the harm caused by residential schools.”
Not only do we have constitutional and legal obligations to recognize First Nations, we have a responsibility to ensure First Nations have the same opportunities as any citizens of our province, said Liberal candidate Steve Housser.
“That’s why the B.C. Liberal government has focused on revenue sharing agreements that ensure First Nations benefit from economic development projects — with nearly 400 such agreements reached since 2013.”
High school completion rates for aboriginal students are up from 51 per cent to 65 per cent, he said.
“Vancouver Island University is doing an excellent job in trades and university courses with a focus on First Nations students.”
And, for the first time, three First Nations candidates are running for the BC Liberals.
“I have been meeting with Malahat and Cowichan First Nations members to have a better understanding of how we can all work and prosper together,” Housser said.
Independent candidate Ian Morrison has lived, served, worked and prayed with First Nations peoples for more than half of his life and has been participating in Ojibwa and Cree traditional ceremonies for almost 30 years.
“My wife Brenda and daughter Rhianon are both Status Indians. I have served on three provincial treaty negotiating teams with almost six years serving on the Ditidaht/Pacheedaht main treaty table,” he said.
Supporting the work of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women’s Task force is important to him as is reconciliation.
Advancing reconciliation with First Nations in the Cowichan Valley is about listening, Morrison said.
“I will be listening, and prepared to act when asked. Our First Nations neighbours have much to share and to teach us. As your MLA, one priority will be to change policy and practice so that government will begin supporting young families, instead of seizing their children.”
Independent socialist candidate Eden Haythornthwaite believes aboriginal people should have self-determination.
“I believe that’s what the UN Charter calls for and we should go from there. Our governments have to recognize the inherent rights of aboriginal people to all the land and resources in B.C. and their share in it,” she explained. “Beyond that, we have to do something about the complete lack of equity in terms of public services for native people, whether it’s in education or healthcare or infrastructure on-reserve and off-reserve.”
Native people spend all their time in the courts fighting for things they should just have by right, Haythornthwaite continued.
“We have to have nation to nation collaboration and negotiation so that once people have self determination, they can decide for themselves what they want their relationship to look like with the provincial government, with the broader community in British Columbia. That’s all because anything else would be an imposition.”
First Nations know all-too-well the intrusive nature of the government, said Libertarian candidate James Anderson.
“Like all Canadians, First Nations don’t need government bureaucrats dictating how they should be living their lives and how they run their communities. The atrocities committed against the First Nations people should serve as a warning to all of us, the true nature of governments that take a ‘we know best’ approach to governance,” he said.
The past and current policies of traditional political parties, however well-intentioned, do not excuse the means used to reach their ends, Anderson added.
“The way towards true sovereignty for indigenous and all Canadians is to start reducing the amount of government oversight in their lives,” he said. “This starts with empowering individuals, families and communities to live their lives however they so choose provided those choices don’t infringe on the rights of other individuals; not through further legislation.”