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B.C. cabinet, First Nations' leadership gather for important conversations

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 2:41 PST, Wed November 30, 2022

The seventh B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders' Gathering began yesterday (Nov. 29), marking the first in-person gathering since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 and the atmospheric river of 2021.

Premier David Eby, together with Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Cheryl Casimir, Regional Chief Terry Teegee, and Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, opened the two-day event with a unified resolve to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, build on the strong foundations of government-to-government relationships, and continue working on the transformative change necessary for meaningful reconciliation.

"Over the past five years, we've built strong partnerships with Indigenous Peoples,” said Premier David Eby. “We've made historic investments in affordable housing, both on and off reserve; helped revitalize Indigenous languages, culture, and heritage; created stable, long-term revenue sharing; supported greater access to high-speed internet; and made the necessary changes to help keep Indigenous families together. There is still so much more to do. We will keep building on that foundation to deliver results that Indigenous Peoples can see, feel, and touch in their lives and communities. There is a bright future ahead, and we will get there by continuing to work together in partnership."

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and Minister Responsible for the Declaration Act Secretariat, said: "As we mark the three-year anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we come together to listen, learn, and reflect on the good work we've accomplished together since 2019, as well as the work we have ahead of us. Meaningful, lasting reconciliation is a journey about working together, government to government, in respectful partnerships that recognize the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. Together with Indigenous Peoples, we will build a stronger, more inclusive, and fairer B.C., and create a better future for everyone."

The gathering takes place this year at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre and creates opportunities for First Nations leaders in B.C. and provincial cabinet ministers to discuss important community issues through one-on-one meetings. The 2022 gathering will be the largest to date. More than 1,000 people are registered to attend, representing 208 First Nations and organizations. More than 800 one-on-one meetings are scheduled.

The event is co-hosted and organized by the provincial government and First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC), which is comprised of the BC Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit, and Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

"While the critical work to implement and bring to life the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act has advanced since 2019, the B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders' Gathering (FNLG) is committed to flagging urgent issues and opportunities,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee, British Columbia Assembly of First Nations. “As First Nations' priorities, rights, and title are addressed, the foundation of good governance is reinforced. FNLG 2022, with the opportunity for leaders to meet in person, will enhance economic, social, and cultural development, peace, and security. This is a process of building good and stable governance, while ensuring self-determination as we all move forward on post-colonial pathways toward reconciliation."

Robert Phillips, political executive, First Nations Summit, said: “We are very pleased the FNLG is taking place this year following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FNLG has become a highly anticipated annual event for our communities and is integral to building positive relationships between B.C. First Nations and the Government of B.C. This year's gathering provides us an important opportunity to continue dialogue on important issues, such as B.C.'s implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) to uphold and meet the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The passage of DRIPA three years ago was an historic step forward for the Government of B.C. in righting its relationship with First Nations—taking a concrete step to move away from a tradition of rights denial toward a modernized relationship based on human rights, co-operation, and partnership. The implementation of DRIPA, especially the alignment of all existing and future laws in B.C., is important step on our collective paths toward reconciliation."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said: "We are extremely pleased to be able to gather in person and lay out a framework for the critical work we have to do over the next year to advance reconciliation. We are looking forward to this new chapter under the leadership of Premier David Eby, who has a strong understanding of the complex and intersecting impacts of colonialism and what is now needed for recognition and implementation of our inherent Title and Rights. Although we still have many differences, I'm confident that we are going to be able to find a way forward together."

During the three years since the the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted into provincial law, the province and FNLC have worked together to make ongoing and collaborative changes to B.C.'s laws, policies, and systems, and to advance reconciliation in ways that make a difference in communities throughout the province.

To view the Declaration Act Action Plan, visit declaration.gov.bc.ca.

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