Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong is expected to bring the Recognition and Reconciliation Act to the legislature this month. It gives First Nations the right to make decisions and share in revenues from their traditional land, so they would benefit from mining, forestry, fisheries and other economic development. It also envisions an aboriginal council working on equal footing with the provincial government.
"I think if we do this together, it will represent change on a seismic scale," said de Jong, in a speech yesterday to the First Nations Summit, meeting in Victoria.
Chiefs will talk to the government about drafting details, said Ed John, grand chief of the First Nations Summit. After 150 years of repression, there is still skepticism about government's commitment, but most chiefs are optimistic, he said.
Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said every government in Canada will look carefully at the B.C. bill. "I know the federal government will be under considerable pressure if this proposal ... makes it through the legislature," he said.
From a rocky start, Premier Gordon Campbell has evolved into one of the most supportive premiers in the country, Fontaine said. "He came to the realization that B.C. wasn't going to progress without First Peoples as an integral part," he said.
I had an intense dislike for my former MLA Graham Bruce. However, I've always respected his passion for and championing of the rights of indigenous peoples in this province. I've no doubt that while he's no longer in government he, together with local native leaders, played a key role in laying the groundwork for this new legislation.
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