Debate in the Legislature on Thursday, March 28, 2019 on moving Land Titles records from Kamloops. Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar questioned FLNRO Minister Doug Donaldson on the issue.
T. Stone: The Kamloops land titles office supports one-quarter of the province, a huge land mass from Hope to the Alberta border, Williams Lake to the U.S. border. Now, $1.7 million was spent recently to upgrade that office by installing state-of-the-art climate control technology and security to best protect these historical records in Kamloops. Despite that, the NDP government is allowing these historic paper-based records to be relocated from Kamloops to Victoria. Everyone impacted by this decision has been blindsided, most notably First Nations.
My question to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations is this: why is the minister allowing these critical historical records to be moved when there’s been no engagement, no consultation and, especially, none of the above with First Nations?
Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, I think the member needs a little bit of education around the Land Title and Survey Authority offices. The Land Title and Survey Authority offices work and operate independently of government as a publicly accountable statutory corporation.
In fact, the land title office, those services, used to be part of government up until the last government privatized these functions. So the member is incorrect in asserting that this government has the authority to dictate to the Land Title and Survey Authority offices how they operate. It was set up as an independent authority by the previous government.
Now, the member knows that the Land Title and Survey Authority offices have written to him, have explained this through their operations. They’ll be moving the hard-copy historical records to a vault in Victoria that is better equipped to conserve them in a climate-controlled environment.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a supplemental.
T. Stone: Like the climate-controlled environment that the government spent $1.7 million on in the Kamloops office? A good spot to protect those records.
Mr. Speaker, the relocation of these critical, original, paper-based records will result in direct and indirect job losses in Kamloops. But what’s most unacceptable about this decision is that there hasn’t been any engagement with First Nations. And First Nations are furious with this minister’s arrogance and his failure to consult.
Now let me just, for the purposes of the House….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
T. Stone: Here’s what Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Nation had to say about this decision: “Arbitrarily removing and relocating important historic records that bear weight on and inform land title, specific and comprehensive claims research is detrimental. With no consultation or dialogue with First Nations, this move by your government will create injurious barriers to accessing justice and to the reconciliation B.C. purportedly holds in such high regard.”
Again to the minister responsible: what does the minister have to say in response to Chief Wilson, and will the minister commit today to reversing this decision?
Hon. D. Donaldson: If the member over there hadn’t been part of a government that privatized these services, we’d have much more control over them.
I’d say to the member: look in the mirror first before you ask questions like that around First Nations.
Mr. Speaker: Members, we shall hear the response. Thank you.
Hon. D. Donaldson: Now, in addition, hon. Speaker, the LTSA, the Land, Title and Survey Authority, wrote to the member from Kamloops and the other member from Kamloops on March 19 stating that there are no changes in planned jobs to Kamloops. The member brought that up in his question.
So it is irresponsible for the member to fearmonger amongst staff from the LTSA that there will be job losses. Can you imagine what that feels like when the member from Kamloops and the other member from Kamloops go to the media and go to other people within Kamloops to fearmonger that jobs will be lost? They received a letter March 19 from the LTSA saying that there would be no job losses, so to fearmonger is a shameful, shameful behaviour.
Mr. Speaker: Members.
The member for Kamloops–South Thompson on a second supplemental.
T. Stone: It’s shameful that the minister would suggest that anyone on this side of the House, let alone the chiefs around British Columbia, would be fearmongering on this particular issue.
Now, the facts are very, very clear. One, these records belong to the province of British Columbia. Two, the Land Title Act deems the minister that I have been posing these questions to as the minister responsible. Three — news flash — First Nations want to deal on a government-to-government basis in this province.
Now, Mr. Speaker, one year ago in this House the minister actually had this to say: “When it comes to First Nations consultation where my ministry has jurisdiction…embarking on deep consultation with First Nations.” And this minister has made an art form of talking about the importance of engagement and talking about the importance of consultation. Yet when it comes to this decision, to move these historical records, the minister has done exactly the opposite, and First Nations are rightfully outraged.
Talk about missing the mark. Millions of dollars wasted, jobs lost, historical documents at risk, but worst of all, a failure to engage with First Nations in British Columbia. So again, I will ask the minister one more time: will the minister live up to his rhetoric about the importance of consulting with First Nations and actually do it? Will he take responsibility for this mess? And will he immediately reverse this terrible decision?
Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, the crocodile tears coming from the members of the opposition are awfully hard to take. They privatize a service, and then they attack the service that they privatized. It’s quite unbelievable, quite two-faced.
Now, if the member had bothered to read the information that he and the other member from Kamloops received from the LTSA, he would know that the LTSA has stated that historic searches can still be conducted from Kamloops when the records are relocated to Victoria. The process would be the same as conducting an historic search from Kamloops today for a title in Victoria or New Westminster. Records can be ordered directly through the LTSA or via the scan-on-demand service.
The people of Kamloops…
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Hon. D. Donaldson: …deserve better than the misinformation that’s being spread by the two members from Kamloops.
Mr. Speaker: Getting back to question period, the member for Kamloops–North Thompson.
P. Milobar: With the handling of this file and others, I think it shouldn’t be called question period anymore. Maybe amateur hour would be a little more….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
Mr. Speaker: Members. Thank you.
P. Milobar: If only the cabinet and the rest of the NDP had actually talked to their throne speech, they might have realized that there were words in there about the importance of UNDRIP. They seem to have totally ignored it. There’ve been absolutely no consultations with First Nations, and they are furious about this. The NDP can laugh it off all they want. They are being very dismissive to the chiefs in our area and over a quarter of this province, and that is totally unacceptable.
I have a letter here addressed to the minister from Chief Michael LeBourdais of the Whispering Pines–Clinton Indian band. It reads: “These records are as much our records as they are the Crown’s. This is a direct and material breach of your legal duty to consult and accommodate our interests in the records. We demand that any records be moved immediately, returned and the process of removal ceased.” And to the minister’s answer around electronic scans, this is what the Chief also had to say: “If copies are adequate, you keep the copies; we will keep the originals.”
So again, when will not only the minister start showing some respect for First Nations; when will this Premier and the rest of the NDP cabinet start showing some respect towards First Nations, end all this users office and reverse this decision immediately?
Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, it’s a bit much to hear this newfound concern for First Nations from the opposition. For 16 years, they denied aboriginal title existed in B.C. So let’s….
Mr. Speaker: Members. Members.
If I could just take a break and just pass notice to the children in the gallery: please do not try this at home. This is not acceptable behaviour anywhere.
Hon. D. Donaldson: For 16 years, they denied aboriginal title existed in this province. It took the Tsilhqot’in to go to court — fought by this government — to prove that aboriginal title exists on parcels of land in this country, in this province.
Let’s go through a little history. The LTSA is an arm’s-length body from government, formed by them in 2005. So the misinformation being spread by the two members from Kamloops is really a disservice to the people of Kamloops. The member talks about Aboriginal interests. Well, he has no credibility — absolutely no credibility. He was spreading misinformation after he received the letter from the LTSA about job losses. That lack of credibility spreads to the question that he just asked.
Mr. Speaker: The member for Kamloops–North Thompson on a supplemental.
P. Milobar: It’s so disappointing that the minister doesn’t even understand the legislation he’s responsible for. Talk about misleading. The legislation very clearly says that if there are no permanent records in the office, you cannot call yourself a land title office. Therefore, it is closing.
Let’s look at credibility here. I’ll stand on my track record of 18 years of working with these elected officials in my area, as an elected official myself.
Let’s hear from another chief from the area. Let’s hear from the Chief of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, Rosanne Casimir, and what she has to say about this move — maybe they just don’t understand their rights and title either, according to the minister: “There has been no consultation and no referral, not even a referral requesting our input.” It goes on to say: “What does that say about respectful relationships, reconciliation and working together?”
Before I ask the minister the question, I’ll remind him what he’s had to say about this. “Governments have a duty to ensure that First Nations consultation takes place” — the minister’s own words. When will the minister actually do his job and start consulting with First Nations on something as fundamental as the records for their traditional and territorial areas?
Hon. D. Donaldson: Well, it’s a pity that the member does not do any research. If he had done some research, he would have been able to find…. I’m reading from information provided by the LTSA that’s publicly available. We acquired this from the LTSA, just the way the member could have if he had actually bothered to do some research. What they address under “rumours”: there will be no downsizing or permanently closing of the Kamloops office — directly in contradiction to what the member just said.
As far as the relationship with First Nations, we’ve just signed an historic agreement with the Secwépemc last week. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation did that. I also want to point out that under the previous government, the local First Nations started legal court action to prove Aboriginal title. That was the legacy of that government.
Source: BC Hansard