Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tsawwassen First Nation members can save farmland by voting no on Treaty; BC Liberals fail province, BC NDP does nothing

Tsawwassen nation should reject vote

By BILL TIELEMAN

Let's face it - we are all here to stay.

- Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Antonio Lamer, on Delagmuukw aboriginal rights decision, 1997

The Tsawwassen First Nation can do the province a huge service tomorrow by voting "no" to its proposed treaty with the provincial and federal governments.

The best reason to vote no is because this treaty would remove 207 hectares of prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve to be paved to park shipping containers at the Roberts Bank Deltaport.

Not only would Deltaport expansion make land around the Tsawwassen Reserve even more polluted, noisy and visually blighted, it could also increase opposition to treaties.

But more importantly, B.C. farmland is disappearing, making the province increasingly dependent on foreign sources for fruit and vegetables.

A recent B.C. Agriculture Ministry report states that to just maintain our current level of growing 48 per cent of the food we eat, B.C. farmers will have to increase production by 30 per cent by 2025 and boost irrigated farmland by 49 per cent.

We are indeed all here to stay and we all need farmland for our food. But how, when the B.C. Liberals give up farmland for industrial use?

Ironically, Premier Gordon Campbell has gone from vigorously opposing the Nisga'a treaty to expensively promoting the Tsawwassen deal.

The province flew 40 Tsawwassen natives to Nisga'a territory, spent $400,000 on communications to sell it to band members and promised elders $15,000 cash each if it passes.

At this rate, Campbell will be known as Big Chief Blank Cheque.

But New Democratic Party leader Carole James has also been a huge disappointment, promising twice to take a position on the Tsawwassen Treaty and twice reneging. Where does the NDP stand?

While NDP MLAs Guy Gentner and Corky Evans publicly oppose removing farmland, other NDP politicians dodge the issue, even though it was Dave Barrett's NDP government that created the ALR in 1973.

They shouldn't. It is not contradictory to support resolving aboriginal land claims in general while rejecting this deal in particular simply because of the farmland sell-out.

Excluding farmland to expand Deltaport is a B.C. Liberal invention. It's using the Tsawwassen First Nation's legitimate treaty interests to get a huge benefit for businesses that want port expansion.

But Tsawwassen First Nation members can easily fix all politicians' mistakes by voting "No" on Wednesday and demanding a treaty without the loss of farmland.

Here's hoping.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article Bill
It seems a number of folks are against the deal. But will it be enough. ALR land is a very valuable commodity and handing some over with no type of control is simply nuts. One of our family has a small farm on the peninsula and is trying to enlarge. A lady down the road has 9 acres for sale and it's in the land reserve so the price is less than other residential land in the area. But someone will high bid it then argue it is not good farm land and as things are heaing right now with local ALR committees I can see some rich folks homes on the site. Our family member has farmed that piece so when it sells the supply of local produce will go down, but the locals won't figure out their loss till its' gone. Hopefully a few band members will understand that land to grow stuff sue beats some bucks for a parking lot. Yes a lot of their land is leased out now to some development but does that really help the band member who is looking for a place to live. Shame on the Official opposition for sitting on the fence. It should be interesting to see them in the Legislature if this passes up to them. Lots of great speeches about fareness, etc. But in the end they possibly will fold because they arer afrasid to not support this deal even when long established NDP Policy and Treaty policy was to protect the ALR. I aiat the theartrics. Would be good comedy if not such a serious issue dl

Donna Passmore said...

Once again, Bill, you have hit the nail on the head. It is 8:45 pm on Wednesday - and I'm waiting with dread for the news.

I phoned Bertha this morning - fretfully worried about the emotional toll today would have on her and her family. Her concern was only for her family and community and their future.

what an amazing woman. Thank you for helping the people of this region to come to know her a little.