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First Nations group condemns BC United statement on Haida land agreement

March 25, 2024

Opposition Leader Kevin Falcon said the agreement puts private property rights at risk

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. Phillip and the FNLC argued that Kevin Falcon and BC United’s March 22 statement criticizing the recently drafted Haida Land Agreement was “a purposeful attempt to stir division.” (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns) 

The Tyee: Haida Gwaai Observer – The First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) has condemned a “misleading and factually incorrect” March 22 statement from the BC United Caucus which criticized a recently drafted Haida Title Land Agreement.

The FNLC said BC United’s statement — which called for an immediate pause in land title talks — politicized First Nations peoples’ human rights as outlined by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Rather than seeking to deny First Nations our most basic human rights, in clear violation of domestic and international law, we encourage all British Columbians to stand with us in celebrating the current provincial government and the Haida Nation’s tremendous accomplishment,” read a March 25 news release from the FNLC, which is made up of members from the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit (FNS), and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

BC United’s statement argued the Haida Title Land Agreement would deter private investment across the province.

“By advancing an agreement that stretches beyond the constitution and established legal precedents, this government is fostering a climate of uncertainty that will deter investment and destabilize the land base across our province,” read the March 22 statement from Leader Kevin Falcon and Michael Lee, BC United Shadow Minister for Attorney General and Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation.

The FNLC denied BC United’s claim, pointing to a backgrounder released by the provincial government which said no private property would be affected by the land agreement.

Falcon and Lee said the agreement between the province and the Haida Nation was made behind closed doors and lacked public transparency.

“The NDP’s approach, shrouded in secrecy and lacking broad public consultation, is not in keeping with the spirit of reconciliation or the public interest, which demands open, honest dialogue and a commitment to finding solutions that respect the interests of all parties involved,” BC United’s statement read.

The FNLC said the agreement would be beneficial for the entire province, saying it would offer clarity in what are frequently murky land disputes in the courts and in public protests.

“It allows all British Columbians, and not just large corporations, to plan for the future of this province while enjoying both the wealth and natural beauty of B.C.,” the FNLC said.

BC United said the draft agreement harms the whole of B.C. and undermines the province’s legal system.

“They have chosen to disregard the nuanced balance of rights and responsibilities that form the bedrock of our legal system,” Falcon and Lee said.

“This draft agreement clearly demonstrates the NDP Government’s continuous failure to prioritize the public interest of all British Columbians.”

The NDP government’s proposed changes to the B.C. Land Act — which the province said were designed to align with UNDRIP — were paused in February after sharp criticism from BC United.

The FNLC denounced the province’s pause in February, saying the changes became overly politicized.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative