The election on June 28 may have a big impact on First Nations in BC. Except for photo ops on National Aboriginal Day showing all the party leaders drumming with First Nations in whatever province they happened to be touring in, Aboriginal issue have been largely absent form the election.
However, who wins power in the upcoming election may have an impact on the future of Aboriginal relations with the Crown, including the ongoing treaty talks.
Many fear that the election of a Conservative government could end up further hamstringing already deteriorating relations with First Nations.
Columnist Paul Willcocks recently wrote that Stephen Harper becoming Prime Minister means “Successful talks look less likely, and the chance of blockades and lawsuits increases.”
Why the fear? Well, the Conservatives do not mention BC treaties in its platform and Tom Flanagan, probably Conservative leader Stephen Harper’s closest policy adviser, is viewed as an unsympathetic to the treaty process and Canada’s aboriginal communities. .
Flanagan, who would be expected to have a senior role in a Harper government, has attacked First Nation attempts to acquire control of land. He also rejects the use of the term “First Nations” as he says they do not qualify as “nations.” He is viewed as an assimilationist that promotes private, not collective ownership, of land and resources.
At best Mr. Flanagan’s views on Aboriginal Title and Rights are simplistic, at worst , they are dangerous.
Relations with the provincial Crown are already deteriorating, a Harper government could further frustrate negotiations. If the federal government attempted to implement Flanagan’s advise, strong First Nation opposition would be inevitable.
Individually, and collectively through organizations like the Title & Rights Alliance, First Nations would ratchet up pressure through lawsuits, blockades and financial pressure campaigns attacking “certainty.”.
Virtually all British Colombians, including Aboriginal leaders and the business community, believe that negotiations are the best approach to resolving the “land question.” However, to date both the provincial and Federal Crowns haven’t had the courage to meaningfully address the myriad issues necessary to move forward.
The election of a Harper-led government in Ottawa makes is it even less likely.