Debate during Question Period on Thursday, April 19, 2018 between Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar and Environment Minister George Heyman:
P. Milobar: On March 14, the Environment Minister was asked about the 33 B.C. First Nations with benefit agreements. He said: “What’s difficult to ascertain is whether support was a condition of receiving benefits.” He went on to call it: “a sort of support.”
This is what Simpcw Coun. Don Matthew told me about the minister’s comments: “Our members voted to support the project knowing full well that our main objective was to be involved with the environmental aspects from start to finish. We are quite capable of knowing what we sign.”
Will the minister retract his statements that trivialize the decisions of the Simpcw?
Hon. G. Heyman: Certainly, I had no intent to trivialize the concerns of any group of Indigenous people, any nation, on either side of this question, who are taking legitimate positions. The fact remains that there are different positions, and it is not a matter of counting up how many nations support one side or how many nations support another side.
The real question is a question of rights and title and impact. For 16 years, we had a government in British Columbia that ignored British Columbia’s First Nations, that ignored rights and titles until they were forced to by the courts. They refused to implement the United Nation’s declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples, and they refused to take seriously the importance of reconciliation.
We’re taking a different approach. We recognize the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We recognize the United Nations declaration. We recognize the decisions of the court. We’re working carefully and with purpose throughout every ministry in government to build new relationships and ensure that we take actions that not only build respect for rights and title and engagement with Indigenous people but create economic opportunities for all.
Mr. Speaker: Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.
P. Milobar: Well, yesterday the minister did say: “I would never, ever trivialize the concerns of voices of Indigenous people.”
Let me read more of Simpcw Coun. Don Matthew’s concerns with the minister’s remarks and how they feel the minister’s remarks impact them. “We knew what was happening, and we approved what was going to be done in our territory. We don’t need non-native politicians looking out for our best interests these days.” This is the feeling of the Simpcw.
Again to the minister, will he apologize for his offensive comments to them?
Hon. G. Heyman: The member himself read out a statement by me which said I have no intention of trivializing the concern of any nations. I’ve been clear about that.
Nations have differences of opinion. People in British Columbia have differences of opinion. The job of the government of British Columbia is to respect them all.
But the fact remains that it’s not up to the government of British Columbia to speak for First Nations. They’re doing that on their own. While some nations have signed agreements and support the project, others have gone before the Federal Court of Appeal to protect their interests, as they say, seeking to overturn federal approval of the project. That includes the Tsleil-Waututh, the Coldwater and the Squamish.
We need to resolve these differences with respect for the United Nations declaration, with respect for the calls to action, with respect for previous decisions in courts and with respect for decisions yet to come. That’s our government’s commitment to British Columbians.
Source: BC Hansard.