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Salish Sea Sentinel | May 18, 2024

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Actions speak louder than words

There was a lot of power in the room when BC’s First Nation leaders met with Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet in Vancouver on Sept. 11. A power shift had occurred in the province a few weeks earlier with the landmark Tsilhqot’in Nation decision by the Supreme Court of Canada.

But when the so-called ‘historic day of
dialogue’ had ended, many were left wondering if there was real substance to all the talk. A statement from the First Nations Leadership Council said that it was disappointed that the BC Government did not commit itself to a brief four-point statement that it said was key to moving forward.

Others in the room asked whether the gathering at the Hotel Vancouver was just another government photo op. After all, the 20-plus year BC treaty process is littered with many words, but little action.

First Nation leaders remembered the 2009 Recognition and Reconciliation Act that was abandoned by her predecessor, Gordon Campbell. They also recalled the 2005 Kelowna Accord scrapped by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Instead of being leaders, the BC Government seems to be waiting for business and the public to get on board with the Tsilhqot’in decision. But, as Klahoose Chief James Delorme says in his account of the gathering (Pages 6-7), First Nations have waited long enough.

Away from the head table in Vancouver, many were cynical about all the talk and the lack of action. One said that First Nation leaders in the room were there on behalf of their people and not business interests: “Time is not our friend… we have community members who have expectations.”

Dialogue is a two-way street. Governments need to know that.