Sunday, October 21, 2007

Bill Tieleman vs Mike de Jong on Tsawwassen Treaty exclusion of farmland from ALR on Voice Of BC

Shaw Cable television's current affairs show Voice of BC with host Vaughn Palmer, columnist from the Vancouver Sun, featured Mike de Jong, Aboriginal Affairs Minister and House Leader, last Wednesday.

I posed a pre-taped question to de Jong about the treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation excluding prime farmland from the Agricultural Land Reserve.

De Jong didn't like the question. Here is that exchange:

Vaughn Palmer: In her speech to the Legislature this week, Kim Baird [Tsawwassen First Nation Chief] said there was opposition in the non-native community to her treaty as well, particularly on the agricultural land and she referred to 'environmentalists, politicians and columnists' being in opposition to this transfer.

Here's one of the columnists - I know he was proud to be singled out in the Chief's speech - here's Bill Tieleman:

Bill Tieleman: The provincial treaty with the Tsawwassen First Nation will get rid of 200 hectares of prime farmland and allow it to be used for Deltaport container expansion - pave it over. How can you justify this at a time of climate change and food security concerns - actually getting rid of farmland in British Columbia?

Vaughn Palmer: He doesn't give up on this issue.

Mike de Jong: Well I'm glad for the question from Bill but I find implicit in the statement the notion - it is very presumptuous.

The thing is - the Tsawwassen First Nation - we heard Kim Baird say this - the Tsawwassen First Nation will decide how to put those lands to use.

There's no deal, there's no pre-ordained result and ....

Vaughn Palmer: They're probably going to use them for port development, they're not going to grow potatoes on that land!

Mike de Jong: And the whole point of the exercise, Vaughn, when I was asked about this - because the government had a choice, the government had a choice, and we opted, as revealed in the legislation, we have specifically excluded - we didn't wait for the ALR, the ALC [Agricultural Land Commission] we thought that would be unfair, that's not the Agricultural Land Commission's jurisdiction or responsibility, it was a political decision on the part of the government that said every single community in this province has a portion within their jurisdication that they can use for commercial activity to develop an economy and the Tsawwassen should be no different.

And if Mr. Tieleman can find me a community somewhere in British Columbia where no lands are available to develop an economy and provide some economic foundations for families to move forward, then I stand corrected but I haven't found that community because I don't think it exists.

Vaughn Palmer: Was there no other land available?

Mike de Jong: Well, you know where the Tsawwassen are located and, you know, the stories we heard about them already. You see, there is....

Vaughn Palmer: They're between the ferry terminal and Roberts Bank superport and at the time the two communities Beach Grove and Ladner as communities around them, a hydroelectric line, a freeway and a railway....

Mike de Jong: We apparently had no qualms about putting causeways through, we apparently had no qualms in allowing good portions of good farmland over the years, over the decades, to be developed for the purpose of non-aboriginal society, we made some decisions.

But now Bill Tieleman wants to say no, we're going to start anew and for this community, which we are desperately working with to try and create a sound economic foundation and future - no, the rules will be different for you - you won't have those opportunities. You're not going to have a small portion - 200 hectares, 200 hectares - upon which you can make some decisions.

And you know what, maybe they'll decide a portion of it is going to remain agricultural but it will be their decision. . . . .

And what we're trying to do is create a circumstance in which people can move forward and what Mr. Tieleman and others seem intent on the one hand saying 'yes, yes I'm supportive of the Tsawwassen First Nation but on the other hand I want them to move forward with one hand tied behind their back.' That's not fair.

Not surprisingly, Minister de Jong misrepresents not only my position but the reality of the Tsawwassen Treaty.

There is no question whatsoever - as Vaughn Palmer notes - that the Tsawwassen First Nation is not going to expand Deltaport by using the excluded farmland.

De Jong's statement that there is no "pre-ordained deal" is absolutely ridiculous.

As I've previously noted, Chief Kim Baird has said so and there is a Memorandum of Agreement with the Vancouver Port Authority right on the TFN's own website!

Secondly, the Tsawwassen are not going to develop the land themselves - they are going to sign it over to Deltaport in exchange for a big cheque and probably some small number of jobs for TFN members.

The real goal, as I have repeatedly stated here and in 24 hours newspaper, is to get the farmland out of the ALR to allow Deltaport expansion quickly and without question - to remove any possibility that the Agricultural Land Commission would block the removal of those farmland from the ALR if the Tsawwassen had simply been transferred the land without and exclusion - as was previously proposed.

So if the Tsawwassen are satisfied with a big cheque and some jobs, why not give it to them without destroying precious farmland? Because the provincial government and the federal government wanted Deltaport expansion more than anything else - and they used the Tsawwassen First Nation to get it.

Let's be clear - I have said from the beginning that historic injustices need to be resolved, that the Tsawwassen and other First Nations have been shamefully treated in the past.

But that does not mean the only resolution is to let them make the same terrible mistakes that were made generations ago by non-aboriginals, at a time when our society didn't realize the damage we were doing to our environment and our health.

An honourable treaty could have been negotiated - but the economic interests of the government and big business came first and now we have another tragic situation - a First Nation being put in a position where it has been used for larger and less noble purposes than righting historic wrongs.

De Jong's justifications ring hollow.


Anonymous said...

Mike is , as usual, twisting words. The Chief made it clear they wouldn't accept the treaty without getting the ALR Land with no ALR restrictions.Their intent was and still is to lease it to the port folks to be paved over and used as a container storage. The idea of treaty making is supposdedly to be a win win win for all three parties. Its a win for the band who obviously would prefer not to actaully grow food, It's a win for Dejong and his boss as they get to build a bigger port facitily. But the win doesn't include the rest of the citizens of BC. It does show the rest of the province, if a side deal can be cut with some company hey, who cares about the ALR. We can buy food from Mexico I guess. Other ALR lands will now be on the table if some friend of the present liberal government wants some of it. The old BS that no treaty is a cookie cutter is not that true. I sat at many tables and saw copies of the Nisga and the Yukon treaties in assorted briefcases. When some other band comes looking, they will get the same sort of a deal. Tsawassen would have been farther ahead to take extra cash so they could develop the land and not as they have now,provide living accomodations for their own band members and stop using the land for non Indian occupiers. Treaties are for a very long time. Which laws will the Liberals not follow next time, and there will be a next time. But they will just as Dejong has done. try to paper over the actual facts and insult anyone who reminds them of the change in policies they are making. dl

Anonymous said...

Keep telling it like it is, Bill. The case you make is starting to look more and more evident to more and more people, and De Jong's sputterings only highlight the cynicism and hypocrisy that underlies their position. The stink will only grow over time -- and will also consume the NDP folks too cowardly to speak up.

The Tsawassen deserve a fair deal -- if that just boiled down to jobs and cash, there were clearly other ways to satisfy their aspirations vs. using them as an excuse to do an end run around the ALR.

Agriculture may still sound like small potatoes to most people today, but there will be a day when the shiny big port is useless and we'll all regret that there's nowhere left to grow our own!

Budd Campbell said...

In the Vancouver Sun today, columnist Miro Cernetig repeats the meme that Baird and her team will, in their wisdom, do some brainstorming and then come up with a brand new land-use plan for the area.

He doesn't even mention Deltaport as a possibility!

To a cynic like me, it looks like the business owned media have been told to "make it look good" by using all kinds of emotive imagery around freed peoples rising to new challenges and occasionally making their own mistakes, we're all human after all, etc., etc. It's great spin, you've got to admit!

Anonymous said...

Keep telling it like it is Bill.

Rather a sad attempt to spin the issue by De Jong. It is not ALR versus aboriginal rights and many, many British Columbians understand that despite the BC Inc. spin.

But hey, ALR vs aboriginal rights--- what a great way to gut the ALR!

Yet another example of the Premier's "green veneer" and how his government simply does not connect the dots between carbon emissions, climate change and the need to preserve BC's farmland (and the need to deep six Gateway).

G West said...

Hang in there Bill, De Jong was obviously very uncomfortable - as he should be. The real story is gradually getting through to the public on this file...despite Miro (who's been a real disappointment as Budd notes) and the press.

There are some interesting things coming out of Duncan these days as well...

Michael Geoghegan said...

Farmland vs treaties I will pick treaties every time...

Orcaspirit said...

Despite the arguments to the contrary, where was all tis concern for the environment when the expansion occurred unabated through the lower mainland and still does, I might add? There seems to be an awful lot of interest in the conservation of farmland from people who may not be environmentalists per se. Perhaps a look into the reason of why you are so incensed by this treaty is in order. I believe that despite the paternalistic attitudes, which border on racism, expressed in the article:
"But that does not mean the only resolution is to let them make the same terrible mistakes that were made generations ago by non-aboriginals, at a time when our society didn't realize the damage we were doing to our environment and our health." Do you really think that there isn't the same consideration about the environment by these people? I would venture that they perhaps know more about the fact than some of the people who frequent and display this site. These people have, over the long period of assimilation, been pushed onto and increasingly small portion of land, witnessed the decimation of their way of life and economic opportunities, and the denial of their rights to live as a people since the start of this whole mess. To let them do what they want to with what minuscule fraction of their original territory they have negotiated for is not only insufficient, it is shameful to see all this controversy develop because of misguided politics from ALL sides.

Shame on you.

Budd Campbell said...

orcaspirit, ... can you tell us whether or not you and your other two "contributors" are employed by the TFN administration? Have you been offered employment or contracts with Deltaport or any related company?

Do you happen to know a blogger on Babble who uses the handle "1234567" when accusing opponents of this treaty of being racists?