British Columbia

By Adams, Naomi; Bett, Erin et al. | Canadian Parliamentary Review, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

British Columbia


Adams, Naomi, Bett, Erin, Gardner, Lindsay, Wood, Jeremy, Canadian Parliamentary Review


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

On October 1, 2007, Steven Point was sworn in as 28th Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a historic ceremony in the legislative chamber. He served as an elected Chief of the Skowkale First Nation for fifteen years and as the tribal chair of the Stolo Nation Government. He was appointed a provincial court judge in 1999 and as Chief Commissioner of the British Columbia Treaty Commission in 2005. One of Mr. Point's first legislative duties will be to proclaim the first urban, modern-day treaty negotiated by a B.C. First Nation with the provincial and federal governments.

Treaty Settlement Legislation

The third session of the 38th Parliament resumed on October 15th, 2007, two weeks after the scheduled start date in the parliamentary calendar. The first three bills introduced in the House related to the treaty settlement with the Tsawwassen First Nation. They were:

* Bill 40, Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement Act

* Bill 41, Final Agreement Consequential Amendments Act, 2007

* Bill 42, Treaty First Nation Taxation Act

At first reading, Michael de Jong, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, explained that this "landmark legislation" gives legal force to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement. Under the agreement, the Tsawwassen people will receive title in fee simple of 724 hectares of settlement land and some $16 million in cash transfers over the next 10 years. The agreement also includes a long-term renewable harvest agreement for salmon and crab, as well as a governance model setting out the First Nation's law-making authorities, with provision for a seat on the regional board of Metro Vancouver (formerly the Greater Vancouver Regional District).

Immediately following first reading, Kim Baird, the elected Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation, was invited to address the Assembly from the Bar of the House, a rare event in the legislature's history. She described her presence as "symbolic of true reconciliation ... born of hard work and hard-fought compromises, so very painful to my community." In her address, Ms. Baird urged both parliamentary parties to support the treaty settlement.

At second reading, Mr. de Jong explained that Bill 40 is intended to help achieve reconciliation for past injustices, recognize the Tsawwassen First Nation's aboriginal rights and title, and enable the Tsawwassen people to become an independent and self-reliant community. Leader of the Official Opposition Carole James also spoke in support of the Final Agreement, but expressed some reservations relating to the government's approach to treaty-making and its handling of overlapping claims from other First Nations. Another concern of the opposition caucus was the proposed transfer of land from the jurisdiction of the Provincial Agricultural Land Commission.

At the start of committee debate on October 29, the Chair explained that as it is a Crown prerogative to make agreements, parliament could debate, accept, reject or amend Bill 40; however, it could not amend the final agreement, except for technical amendments.

Subsequently, Bills 40, 41 and 42 were all reported complete with minor technical amendments. A handful of members from both sides of the House abstained or voted against the treaty settlement legislation.

Other Bills

Three bills left on the order paper at the end of the spring sitting have now passed third reading. The bills amend existing legislation and were debated during October 2007:

* Bill 27 proposes changes to the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act, 2004 to promote fairness in the marketplace and prevent the charging of excessive fees, or "debt traps," for consumers. …

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