Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NDP MLAs give their views on Tsawwassen Treaty and Agricultural Land Reserve exclusion

Debate started Tuesday October 16 in the BC Legislature on the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act.

The following are Hansard Draft excerpts from New Democratic Party MLAs, including Leader Carole James, on the Treaty and in particular on its exclusion of farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve for Deltaport expansion.

Tuesday October 16, 2007


Carole James - NDP leader & MLA - Victoria-Beacon Hill

C. James: I rise with pride today to speak to the Tsawwassen treaty. I rise with feelings of pride and optimism for the future of Tsawwassen people, but I also have feelings of great concern about this government's approach to treaty-making — past, present and future. And I'm going to take some time this afternoon, as I go through my remarks, to talk about that and to talk about some ideas of how to improve that process.

But I want to start by saying how proud I am to stand with my caucus to support the Tsawwassen treaty. It will be a momentous day for the Tsawwassen people when this treaty is finally ratified by all parties and comes into effect. It will be a genuine cause for celebration.

.....In the 1990s the Leader of the Opposition, now the Premier, opposed race-based aboriginal government. The Nisga'a treaty was unconstitutional, he said. Non-Nisga'a citizens would be subject to Nisga'a laws, he said. Non-Nisga'a citizens would be burdened by taxation without representation.

Even when the courts told the Premier that he was wrong, he fought back with a terribly divisive and racist provincial referendum that did nothing except create more divide — after a history of divide in our province — and delayed treaty talks.

Then we all know that suddenly, in 2005, the Premier began promoting a new relationship. Given the Premier's history, first nations and the general public both have good reason to wonder whether they're dealing with a far-sighted statesman or a partisan tactician. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

I have to say that I believe a statesman would have found an honourable way to treat the Tsawwassen First Nation and protect the agricultural land reserve. A partisan would have played one off against another. A far-sighted strategist would have worked hard to resolve this critical land use dispute. A mere tactician would have gone for short-term political gain. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY] We all know what happened in this case. As a result, neither first nations nor the general public really knows where this government and this Premier stand on the toughest of historical treaty issues. [DRAFT TRANSCRIPT ONLY]

Guy Gentner NDP MLA - Delta North

This treaty, in addressing old wrongs, is writing into history, I believe, a new wrong. The new wrong is the dismantling of the agricultural land reserve, and it will be the death of the ALR.

If we approve the removal of the province's most valued agricultural land for treaty settlement, then all agricultural land is on the table, Crown or otherwise.

The precedent will be set. The province's willingness to barter away farmland is the death knell for more to be lost.

Further, by losing that land for the express interest of global profits, from which you and I really won't benefit, we are also sounding the death knell for our future food resources, our future health and welfare, our future environment and, indeed, our very future.

I asked at the beginning: what price do we put on what is going to be lost? It seems to me that what we have here, written in such fine detail in the VPA agreement, is that the costs of repairing the past is the future of farmland. Is this what we want?

What was done in the past and the long-lasting impacts on indigenous people was, to our modern and hopefully more enlightened minds, morally reprehensible. There should have been amends long ago, and it is long past time to sign treaties and enable first nations to move toward their own future.

But what future will that be if we do not protect the very land that feeds us all, if we do not protect the environment that is our collective responsibility?

We are in the process of legislating the end of the agricultural land reserve and gaining a parking lot of containers. Fields of containers is what our future will be with this legislation — the legacy of this government.

We are going to fix a horrendous wrong with containers. Is this truly what we want?

. . . . Someone is going to make a lot of money from this, a heck of a lot of money. Only a very few people will benefit, and it won't be all the TFN members. A special few will benefit, most of whom live outside the province.

The rest of us will pay. We'll pay with our taxes, pay with our health and pay with our future. The Premier is finding that it isn't really easy being green.

Scott Fraser - NDP MLA Alberni-Qualicum

As has been mentioned, the Tsawwassen treaty has not been without debate. New Democrats have strong and passionate beliefs. Two of those issues that we feel most strongly about are settling first nations treaties — it's a human rights issue — and preserving B.C.'s food-producing lands.

It was also the NDP that created both the ALR — the agricultural land reserve — and the treaty process. So as a party and as a caucus, we have the obligation to carefully consider the implications of the Tsawwassen treaty for farmland. This debate is intelligent, it's healthy, and we should all be proud of it.

The New Democrat caucus has had in-depth discussions about these issues, and we've come to a decision to support the treaty. However, as the official opposition, it is our right and our role to raise important questions. So we will stand in the Legislature and give voice to your concerns, which we all have in British Columbia, about the loss of agricultural land, which produces food for communities in the region and beyond.

The ALR is one of B.C.'s greatest legacies, and we will not lose sight of that — of the crucial importance of the legacy of the ALR for the people of British Columbia, particularly in the times of climate change.

We will also raise important concerns about this government's plans for expansion of Deltaport and how these plans impact the fertile and irreplaceable agricultural lands in the area, especially when alternatives are available — ports, facilities such as in Prince Rupert.

. . . . As New Democrats, we will build on the momentum that the Tsawwassen treaty offers, momentum towards reconciliation — more than just the word — and towards protecting farmland, which is our future food security.

As we continue the journey towards reconciliation, the NDP will stand by our commitment for the preservation of farmland — not just today, not just for today's generation, but for future generations. This must also be a key part of the treaty process.

Leonard Krog - NDP MLA Nanaimo

I'm going to accept that the government members have changed their minds, many of them. I'm going to accept that they are now sincere in their support for first nations people across this province.

I'm going to accept that they want to build a just society, a society where social and economic justice are the hallmarks, not just for those of the dominant culture but for those who are of first nations ancestry — those who occupied the land from time immemorial, long before the Spanish came or the Russians or the English or the French.

I'm going to believe that they're sincere in that. I'm going to believe that they want to do the right thing. But the way the agricultural land, which is of such great importance to British Columbians, was included in this treaty gives the opposition some reason for concern.

The commitment to preserving agricultural land is one that is strongly felt by British Columbians. It is indeed the one thing, apart from some awful tinkering, that successive governments, since its introduction by Dave Barrett and Dave Stupich, have not really tried to trifle with.

There have been some changes under this government that are quite unpalatable and that any responsible government elected to succeed them will change, but the fact is they haven't played with it. They understood its importance and its significance to British Columbians, just as the preservation of land, and the land, is so important to first nations people in this province, understanding that intense relationship that exists between first nations people and the land.

One could say that if the NDP had negotiated this treaty, maybe we would have and could have done it differently. But as I have said to some of my constituents who question the treaty, this is like an election. This is exactly like an election. You never get to pick the perfect choice. We have a treaty that we can support or we can oppose. We don't get the treaty that each and every one of us might exactly support.

. . . . The opposition will support this treaty. The opposition will continue to have its concerns about the agricultural land. But when you weigh the issue of the ALR and agricultural lands against the profound importance of the treaty process succeeding, I would suggest to those who have those concerns that the success of the process far outweighs the issue of the agricultural lands.

I say that as someone who is profoundly proud of the agricultural land reserve, as someone who is absolutely astonished that this government, in a time when we're all talking about hundred-mile diets and the importance of being self-sufficient in food and about food security, would throw this in as part of the treaty — to use it as some political football, arguably.

But you know something? I trust the Tsawwassen people. They have much for a future to look forward to.

Wednesday October 17, 2007

David Chudnovsky - NDP MLA Vancouver-Kensington

It's a good day for the Tsawwassen people, and it's a good day for British Columbia, and it's a good day for Canada, because this treaty speaks to the hopes and the desires and the dreams of a first nation and of a province and of a country.

That's not to say that I don't have concerns, serious concerns, about this treaty and about this legislation, and I want to talk about those concerns in some detail in a few minutes.

. . . . Once he formed government, this Premier insisted on holding an expensive and ultimately meaningless referendum on treaties in 2002. First nations condemned him. Polling professionals ridiculed the questions and the methodology and the process.

Everyone who understood the reality of the history of aboriginal people in British Columbia was appalled.

Now, finally and happily, the Premier and his government have changed their tune, but the political opportunism remains.

How else can one describe the government's decision to use public funds to take Tsawwassen people to Nisga'a territory to observe the results of a treaty that this Premier and this government opposed so enthusiastically?

. . . . I said earlier that even though I'm proud to support the treaty and the legislation, I have real concerns about some of its elements. Many people are concerned about the treaty, and many are even critical of it. That shouldn't surprise us. Together with the debate around this treaty, some of our most cherished principles are put into stark relief. There are tensions and conflicts between and among them.

The treaty process, the ALR, self-government and self-determination, local and municipal governance, protection of the environment, redress and reconciliation, food security, social justice. Each of these is for me a touchstone, a measuring stick, a way to figure out where I stand and how I should behave. So, like others, when those principles don't all line up in one direction, I have to struggle to find a way forward.

. . . . There are some who say that the Tsawwassen treaty is an attempt by this government to make an end run around the ALR. I think they're right.

Many say that the treaty is a way the government hopes to get around municipal concerns regarding control over development in Delta.

Critics assert that the treaty is being used by the Liberals to avoid their responsibilities to sustainability and the environment, to protect, for instance, the Fraser estuary and the Georgia Strait. They argue that the treaty is all about massive expansion of Deltaport.

My view is that we should take every one of those criticisms seriously. I think there is merit in each of them. There's no doubt the Tsawwassen peoples' legitimate interest in self-determination and in economic development is being used by a cynical government to push a project that is far more important to them — the government — than the Tsawwassen people or any other first nation in B.C. — namely, massive expansion of Deltaport and a socially and environmentally irresponsible version of economic development.

. . . . The Tsawwassen people had no control over the creation of the ALR or its relationship to their traditional territory. So, despite the legitimate criticisms, I cannot reject the treaty on these grounds precisely because it is the treaty which will provide the Tsawwassen First Nation the possibility, finally, to participate in determining their own future.

We, who have done such a poor job in ensuring social justice and environmental sustainability, have a lot of nerve denying them the right to try to do better than we here — even on their land, and even if they make some mistakes.

Chuck Puchmayr - NDP MLA New Westminster

Last year New Westminster hosted the Pulling Together. I was able to make a presentation at the Tsawwassen longhouse. I left a message for Chief Baird from my leader, the official opposition. The message was that we understood what they were facing, and we could understand that there was some anxiety with the people on the Tsawwassen First Nations land with respect to the upcoming vote. The message from my leader was that we support any direction that they take.

. . . . Back to Tsawwassen, there's certainly some concern about the farmland. We're not going to not talk about the issue of farmland. Farmland is very crucial to the survival of this planet. It's very crucial to have farmland so that you can develop your own food for your own people.

Just as the first nations do, we need food as well. We cannot start to depend on foreign countries to provide us with food. It may look advantageous today, but it could be a disaster for us in the future.

There's no doubt that there are some concerns, and I'm sure the concerns could very well be from some members on the other side who boast about growing in B.C. and boast about farmland. I'm disappointed that I'm not hearing the actual concerns about the agricultural land reserve, but they are valid concerns, and they are real concerns.

When the Agricultural Land Commission and the land reserve were brought in under the Dave Barrett NDP government…. We look today at what we have in preserved farmland that is always under threat, always in jeopardy. We wouldn't have that today had there not been that vision in the past. So there's no doubt that there is some concern when you start to lose farmland.

The land component of the Tsawwassen treaty is irreplaceable. The land component is something that has more value than any amount of money that you can print. Once that land is gone, once the title is gone…. Once that land is sold, 50 years from now or 100 years from now or 500 years from now, people will be wondering what happened to that land.

It is of such extreme value to any future first nations that it has to be respected and it has to be treasured. I feel confident that Tsawwassen First Nation has considered that. There is going to be immense pressure on Tsawwassen First Nation to liquidate, to sell some of that land.

If you look where they're situated between the long jetty driveway to the ferry and the other one to Robert's Bank and the massive container and coal port…. When you look where it's situated, you can understand the pressures that they are going to be experiencing with somebody wanting that land for industrial development. I mean, it's inevitable. I know that Tsawwassen will be strong and that they will certainly listen to their people before any decisions are made on something that is absolutely not replaceable.

. . . . I would say that the Tsawwassen lands are so important to them and the agricultural land is so important to us, but had those land claims been resolved when they should have been resolved, there wasn't even a dream of the agricultural land reserve. This is something that came in the modern times, in the early '70s. So my concerns — where I think they're very valid, I do think that the history trumps that concern to some degree.

Claire Trevena - NDP MLA North Island

My colleague from Delta North gave a heartfelt plea for retention and protection of agricultural land. He will not be alone in that.

The ALR was an innovative and inspired approach to land, brought in by the NDP and embraced by the people of B.C. As our concerns about climate catastrophe and food security increase, we should all be conscious of each piece of agricultural land and find ways to protect it.

Norm Macdonald - Columbia River-Revelstoke

I had the opportunity to watch part of the demonstration outside on Monday. The treaty upsets some because it is motivated by the government's desire to move ahead with the Delta port expansion. That was clearly seen by many, many to be the motivation behind moving with this treaty.

Chief Stuart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, described the government as working towards — and he used an unparliamentary term, but he says — "a sleazy backroom approach to port development." I think we would all recognize that that is one of the factors that is part of pushing this deal forward first.

As I said, I don't believe there is genuine concern for first nations issues with the Premier or with many of the people in the Premier's office such as Martyn Brown. I just do not see that they have genuinely changed and are concerned with first nations issues. So it is something else that motivates the Premier, and likely it is the Delta port expansion.

But I want to be clear that the Premier's motivation is really beside the point in considering whether to support this treaty or not. Nothing that the Premier or the government does — none of their motivation — should take away from the honourable work of the people negotiating on behalf of the Tsawwassen First Nation. Whatever the motivation, we ultimately need to judge by results on this particular issue. Reaching a negotiated settlement is a positive step for the province.

The Tsawwassen were clear in accepting the treaty; that is to be acknowledged and to be celebrated. The challenge for others is if we do not have a motivation such as Delta port, will our treaties be dealt with in as quick and energetic a manner? By quick, we're still talking about 14 years.


Anonymous said...

I voted for the NDP for around 40 years. I voted for the policies of the party. The ALR was one of the policies.I voted for policy over the smooth or not so smooth chats of the candidate. When the NDP Leader decided to jump in the same pile of folks as Gordon Campbell I said to myself. Why should I support that party any longer when a long established policy gets dropped so a small band can be handed ALR Land with no legislation to keep that land producing food for someone? Aned no matter waht james has to say, more ALR land will disappear as opthert small bands want to get land to lease out to non Indians. Why should I support a party that doesn't bother to follow their own principals? I have voted and supported some candidates that didn't hve a ghost of a chance of winning a seat, but the other party was not even considered as a place to put my vote. So the Tsawssen chief has changed her story about the proposed use of the land a couple of times and the ink isn't even dry yet. I feel sorry for the few MLA's from the NDP who actually spoke their minds on the issue of a treaty cooked up as a means to provide space for a shipping container pasrking lot. I wonder when one outspoken NDP MLA will be returning to the fold and allowed a email address? Where will a number of these folks be in a couple of years?The NDP must know that other folks claim ownership of that land as well. A overlap exists, a couple of farmers were going to court to get their land back. But it's all over folks. The NDP leader has done, as she has done a couple of times before recently. Caved in. I took to calling her Ms. Dithers for her bqck tracking. The party may see my again voting for them but not under this so called leader. James is ahown as my MLA but she is not my MLa anymore. Sorry Bill but I didn't even finish reading your coverage of what was said in Hansard. Hell I read Hansard on a very regular bais. I watch question period but today had to turn it off as the SW started getting thicker. If more folks bothered to watch what their elected members are saying and doing as parts of BC get moved around, a lot more folks would figure out that this isn't a homourable solution, but rather a means to and end. All the stories about being stewards of the land ring hollow as farm land is covered by tar to park stuff on.

Sad day in BC but hell no wonder why so many citizens simply don't trust those characters down in the recently bought from the Songhess, who didn't even own the place for a samll amount of 35 millions of dollars. I'm sure Gordo will be doing a little ceremonial dance complete with band regalia which may or may not come in handy for the nextg election show. Thanks tho Bill for passing along information. and putting up with some rather silly comments about folks attaching you personally. D.Love ex SIRAC member and treaty main table observer, Means nothing any more

Anonymous said...

Yes The NDP has also lost my vote . I will find a new party to vote for who I can't say. Not the Liberals, not the green. But somewhere or spoil my Ballot Mr. Routely I will cost you 5 or 6 votes .

Budd Campbell said...

Good remarks all.

But I think Guy Gentner is exaggerating when he say's this sets a precedent and is the end of the ALR, and that now private and public lands can be placed into the treaty making process.

"Precendent" is a term applying to court or tribunal rulings, not to politically negotiated deals like treaties. A new government, or simply a change in the policy of this government, can alter what is or is not in future treaties.

I cannot imagine how a privately owned farm in the ALR could become a treaty settlement property, not can I imagine that there are any other properties that are both owned by the federal or provincial government, and are in the ALR. The only case I can think of would be some of the old Dominion Experimental Farms.