The British Columbia government is committed to reconciliation with First Nations and Aboriginal peoples.
The Province works with First Nations community leaders and Aboriginal organizations to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal people through new economic partnerships, resource development revenue sharing, and closing gaps in health, education, skills training, and employment.
This work benefits every British Columbian as we help create the conditions for stronger, healthier, independent First Nations communities.
- Over the course of more than a century, it is estimated that approximately 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families and their communities and forced to attend one of 139 residential schools across Canada. The legacy of that separation and suppression of culture has had a profoundly negative impact on Aboriginal communities, families and cultural connections through the generations.
- In 2003, the B.C. government expressed its deep regret for the mistakes of past governments in their treatment of Aboriginal people. The Province acknowledged that no words can undo the damage done for past actions and that it is the responsibility of people today to heal these wounds.
- Since this apology, the Province has continued to work with Aboriginal leaders and communities to improve opportunities for Aboriginal people across a wide range of social and economic areas and build a strong future for everyone in British Columbia.
Economic opportunities are a central part of reconciliation with B.C. First Nations. The Province helps facilitate economic activity, job creation and enhanced social well-being by negotiating agreements with First Nations, and by supporting business development and cultural initiatives aimed at increasing opportunities for Aboriginal people.
- The Province and First Nations have achieved more than 500 economic and reconciliation agreements, more than 400 in the past five years.
- Treaties, incremental treaty agreements, revenue-sharing agreements, land base decision-making and consultation agreements, forestry agreements and clean-energy project development funding are among the tools currently used in B.C. to reconcile First Nations interests, and provide certainty for investors, industry and communities.
- B.C. is the first province in Canada to share revenue from mining, forestry and other resources with First Nations. Revenue sharing is a path to partnership that provides a percentage of what the Province receives from resource development on First Nations’ traditional territories directly back into the communities to use where it is needed most. These agreements have brought more than $60 million in benefits to communities in the past year alone.
- An emerging liquefied natural gas sector in B.C. has presented new opportunities for the provincial government and First Nations to work together. Natural gas pipeline benefits agreements offer First Nations economic benefits and go hand-in-hand with skills training and environmental stewardship opportunities. To date, 64 agreements with 29 First Nations have been reached for proposed natural gas pipeline projects in British Columbia.
- To help ensure First Nations benefit from jobs creation, the Province is investing up to $30 million through the Aboriginal Skills Training Development Fund to provide training programs delivered in First Nations communities.
- More than 2,400 Aboriginal people have participated in training through programs supported by the Aboriginal Skills Training Development Fund since it was launched in 2015.
- The Province is providing up to $2.5 million over three years to support the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations’ work developing a sustainable economic development strategy to help identify what First Nations in B.C. need to be successful business partners, investors and entrepreneurs.
Children and families
With more than half of the children in government care in B.C. being Aboriginal, the Province works with agencies and communities to help ensure Aboriginal children and youth can live in strong, healthy families and can thrive in sustainable communities where they are connected to their culture and traditions.
- In 2016, B.C. hosted a Children and Family Gathering and is working with First Nations leaders and the federal government to strengthen Indigenous child protection and explore new approaches to the delivery of services.
- In 2015, the B.C. government appointed Grand Chief Edward John, Hereditary Chief of the Tl’azt’en Nation, long-time member of the First Nations Summit executive and prominent child welfare advocate, as senior advisor on Aboriginal child welfare. The Grand Chief worked with Aboriginal leaders across the province to help more Aboriginal children and youth secure a safe, caring, permanent family outside of government care. In 2016, the Grand Chief produced a report for government, Indigenous Resilience, Connectedness and Reunification – From Root Causes to Root Solutions. The report made 85 recommendations. The 2017-18 budget allocated $120 million to continue to address the report’s recommendations.
- B.C. has 23 Delegated Aboriginal Agencies currently serving approximately 44% of the Aboriginal children in care in the province. Recognizing the importance of their work, funding has tripled since 2005 to $96 million.
- To ensure the needs of Aboriginal children and youth are thoroughly considered when decisions about their care are made, B.C. has implemented cultural competency training for employees, caregivers and community social-service agencies.
- The provincial government has allocated $2.7 million to help in the development of culturally specific plans of care that are responsive to the specific community and culture of each child in care.
- In 2017, B.C. launched an Aboriginal Family Healing Court Conference pilot program in New Westminster that aims to change the way Aboriginal families interact with the child protection system. The goals of the pilot program include reducing the over-representation of Aboriginal children in government care, reducing the number of cases that go to trial and improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and families by giving them the opportunity to speak for themselves in a culturally supportive environment, and receive the guidance and support of trusted elders.
- B.C.’s Aboriginal Service Innovations-Early Years Initiative supports 31 programs focused on Aboriginal early childhood development.
- In 2008, B.C. was the first province to endorse Jordan’s Principle, a child-first principle to resolve jurisdictional disputes between governments regarding payment for services provided to First Nations children.
- B.C. recognizes the importance of the records of the thousands of children who were separated from their families and communities as a result of the residential school system. In 2014, the provincial government provided information on the deaths of Aboriginal children between the ages of four and 19 years old for the period 1870-1984 at a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission event. In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released 94 Calls to Action based on the results of its examination of Canada's residential school history.
Access to education is a catalyst to positive social and economic opportunities in later life. B.C. is working with Aboriginal K-12 and post-secondary education and training partners to improve the experience and success of Aboriginal students, including making the curriculum inclusive and relevant to Aboriginal culture and history.
- To make the curriculum relevant to Aboriginal children and educate non-Aboriginal children, Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives are now woven into B.C.'s new K-12 curriculum in every subject and grade. B.C. is ensuring that children learn about the history and ongoing legacy of the residential school system.
- B.C. created the Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom resource guide to help support teachers to bring Aboriginal content and perspectives into the classroom.
- As of September 2012, all teachers graduating from B.C. teacher education programs must complete three credits in First Nations pedagogy and issues related to the historical context of Aboriginal learners.
- 93% of school districts in B.C. have Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements that establish partnerships between Aboriginal communities and school districts that involve shared decision-making and specific goal setting to meet the education needs of Aboriginal students.
- Since 2000, the six-year high school completion rate for Aboriginal students has increased from 39% to 63%.
- The number of credentials awarded to Aboriginal students in the post-secondary education system increased 27% to 3,340 in 2014-15 from 2,634 in 2009-10 under B.C.’s Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education and Training Framework and Action plan.
- Eleven B.C. public post-secondary institutions have Aboriginal Service Plans which support the needs of Aboriginal learners through services such as Elders-in-residence, cultural learning and mentoring.
- As of 2016, all B.C. public post-secondary institutions have Aboriginal Gathering Places, part of an overall $15-million commitment to support Aboriginal students on campus. The 31 unique spaces can offer students a sense of community and belonging where they can participate in ceremonies, art-making, studying, conferences, mentoring and teaching.
- The Ministry of Advanced Education is working with Aboriginal education organizations and a consortium of B.C. post-secondary institutions to develop an Indigenous Language fluency degree. The development of this degree program is one of the early actions resulting from the provincial government’s work to develop a First Nations Social Determinants of Health Strategy with the First Nations Health Council.
- More than 2,300 Aboriginal learners in 69 communities have benefited from the Aboriginal Community-Based Training Partnerships Program. Since 2012, B.C. has provided $25.1 million to create partnerships between Aboriginal communities and public post-secondary institutions.
- Aboriginal employment is a priority under the BC Jobs Plan and Skills for Jobs Blueprint as the provincial government aims to add 15,000 new Aboriginal workers by 2024.
- Through the Aboriginal Skills Training Development Fund, B.C. is investing $30 million over three years to support skills training for Aboriginal people.
- To date, B.C. has invested in 40 skills training projects involving more than 45 First Nation communities as well as urban/off-reserve Aboriginal populations. Projects offer a range of training opportunities, such as essential skills, trades training, academic upgrading, job readiness, environmental monitoring and driver’s training.
- To date, more than 2,400 Aboriginal people have participated in training through programs supported by the Aboriginal Skills Training Development Fund. B.C. also supports the First Nations Technology Council's Bridging to Technology program to encourage Aboriginal digital skills development and greater participation in B.C.’s rapidly-growing technology sector.
- The B.C. government has also helped more than 2,400 Aboriginal people access trades training and apprenticeship programs through the Industry Training Authority. In 2016, B.C. launched a new training course to enhance the skills of Aboriginal people to co-ordinate venture development in their traditional territories, leading to job creation and greater prosperity.
- As part of government’s drive to increase Aboriginal participation in the B.C. Public Service, the Aboriginal Youth Internship Program was launched in 2007. Since then, 167 alumni are now in leadership roles.
Language and culture
First Nations languages, culture and heritage are integral to the health of Aboriginal people and enrich the lives of all residents. In British Columbia, 203 First Nations communities have 34 languages, more than any other province in Canada, and 61 dialects.
- B.C. is the only province in Canada with a Crown corporation to lead First Nations heritage, language, culture and the arts revitalization.
- The First Peoples’ Cultural Council plays a vital role in assisting B.C. First Nations in their revitalization efforts. The council celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2015.
- FirstVoices is the council’s internationally recognized online Indigenous language archiving and teaching resource that allows Indigenous communities to document their language for future generations.
- In 2016, the council launched a keyboard app for mobile devices that allows First Nations speakers to e-mail, text or send documents written in their own language.
- In 2016/17, the council provided $978,000 to support cultural revitalization by funding 76 Indigenous artists and arts projects.
- B.C. and the Royal BC Museum have started a conversation with Aboriginal people identifying and returning ancestral remains and belongings of cultural significance to First Nations. The Province has committed up to $2 million to help RBCM provide meaningful assistance to Aboriginal communities through the development of a new First Nations department and repatriation program, and to help build capacity for heritage organizations throughout the province. In 2016, RBCM and the First Peoples' Cultural Council signed an MOU to work together on language and culture-related projects.
B.C. is working to improve health outcomes by ensuring accessible and culturally appropriate health care is available to all Aboriginal people. B.C. is also committed to the promotion of sporting activities, especially among youth, as a catalyst to a healthier society and as a unifying force to bring people from diverse cultural and social backgrounds together.
- B.C.’s First Nations Health Authority is the first provincewide health authority of its kind in Canada. It works with First Nations, Health Canada, the B.C. government and provincial health system to improve health programs and services, and foster a health and wellness approach that reflects First Nations culture.
- To foster a health-care system where patients feel safe when receiving care in an environment free from discrimination, in 2015, the provincial government, regional health authorities, the Provincial Health Services Authority and the First Nations Health Authority signed the Declaration of Commitment to Cultural Safety and Humility in Health Services for First Nations and Aboriginal People in British Columbia.
- As part of B.C.’s focus on cultural safety, nearly 18,000 employees in regional health authorities, B.C.'s Ministry of Health and the First Nations Health Authority have received San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety training.
- In 2016, B.C. signed an MOU with the First Nations Health Council on a collaborative approach to addressing the social determinants of health for First Nations peoples of B.C. Feedback from a series of public sessions in 2016 has fed into ministry service plans and the Province’s work to support health and wellness in British Columbia.
- To address regional needs for access to services such as mental health, crisis response teams, social workers, nurses and physician services, B.C. and the First Nations Health Authority have committed $15.3 million to these primary supports.
- The B.C. government is also providing $1.5 million of new funding over three years through the First Nations Health Authority to support the establishment of an additional Aboriginal Suicide and Critical Incident Response Team that will augment the eight existing teams throughout the province.
- To track the state of health of Aboriginal people in B.C., the Office of the Public Health Officer releases comprehensive reports every five years.
- To ensure First Nations are involved in health-care monitoring, wellness indicators are being developed by First Nations communities supported by the First Nations Health Authority.
- The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver were hosted on the traditional territory of the Lil'wat Nation, Musqueam Nation, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation, collectively known as the Four Host First Nations.
- As an enduring legacy of the games, British Columbia has Canada’s only Aboriginal Sport Gallery within the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. The gallery provides the history of sporting events, athletic accomplishments, moments of celebration and participation by the Aboriginal community in British Columbia.
- B.C. is working with the Aboriginal Sport, Recreation & Physical Activity Partners Council on a variety of programs across B.C. These include:
- A new, online e-learning tool designed to educate sport and recreation leaders about Aboriginal culture. The Aboriginal Cultural Relations Module provides best practices on how to incorporate this awareness into their programming.
- Annual Premier’s Award for Aboriginal Youth Excellence in Sport. The awards recognize athletes who have excelled in performance sport, display strong leadership qualities, are committed to higher education, and who serve as community role models both on and off the field of play.
- Helping Aboriginal people throughout B.C. participate in healthy living initiatives such as camps, coaching clinics, Team BC events, Aboriginal RunWalk and Honour Your Health. In 2016-17, the council provided training to an additional 299 new leaders to deliver health and wellness initiatives.
Justice and public safety
The B.C. government is working to address the over-representation of Aboriginal people as victims and offenders in the justice system. The Province is committed to improving the justice and public safety sector’s relationship with Aboriginal people.
- First Nations Courts have been developed to take a culturally appropriate approach to Aboriginal people in the justice system.
- This includes working with Aboriginal court workers and Aboriginal community-based justice programs and community corrections to address underlying factors that lead to criminal behaviour and provide support and healing to help with an offender’s rehabilitation.
- All correction centres have Aboriginal service providers who offer spiritual leadership and culturally relevant programming. Some correction centres have dedicated spaces for sweat lodges, smudges, healing ceremonies and talking circles.
- Aboriginal liaison workers and Elders provide counselling and crisis intervention, and connect Aboriginal offenders with Aboriginal communities and service providers to help them reintegrate into their communities.
- B.C. has implemented cultural awareness training for youth custody and community youth justice staff with specialized Aboriginal programs in B.C.’s two youth custody centres, including the presence of Elders and the observance of cultural practices.
- B.C. now leads the country with the lowest youth incarceration rate. The average number of Aboriginal youth in custody has decreased from 65 in 2006-07 to 26 in 2016-17 (year-to-date).
- B.C. has stated its support for, and intention to participate fully in, the national inquiry on Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
- B.C. held its own Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. The national inquiry will build on the work done in B.C. by looking at the underlying root causes and systemic issues that can increase the vulnerability of Indigenous women and girls.
- In February 2016, the Province co-hosted the B.C. Family Gathering event for over 350 family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The Province shared their feedback with the federal government and participants of the national Roundtable on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
- The B.C. memorial quilt is an important symbol of reconciliation. Displayed in the B.C. Parliament Buildings throughout the summer of 2016, the quilt was crafted by family members of missing and murdered women and girls.
- Since September 2016, the Province has provided $500,000 to support the work of the Moose Hide Campaign, a growing movement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men dedicated to ending violence against women and children. To underline the importance of the Moose Hide Campaign, Feb. 16, 2017 was proclaimed Moose Hide Campaign Day in British Columbia.
- B.C. is improving transportation and cell service coverage to increase public safety on highways in the north.
- The Province has committed $6.4 million to the Highway 16 Transportation Action Plan to improve access to transportation services and enable residents of First Nations communities and municipalities to travel safely to and from rural towns and villages along the highway corridor. In January 2017, the first expanded-transit services started running, between Smithers and Moricetown.
- In March 2017, 12 northern communities were awarded community vehicle grants as part of B.C.'s plan to increase personal safety and provide transportation options along the Highway 16 corridor.
- Under B.C.’s 10 year “Connecting British Columbia” Agreement with Telus, more than 1,600 kilometres of new cellular highway coverage has been completed, which includes more than 500km of expanded cell phone service along Highway 16.
- Recognizing that Aboriginal women are three times more likely to experience violence and be assaulted by their partner than non-Aboriginal women, B.C. is investing $2 million to help Aboriginal communities and organizations develop and deliver local programs as part of the Provincial Domestic Violence Plan.
- To help communities respond to issues of domestic violence, in 2017 B.C. provided $850,000 to the BC Association of Friendship Centres to deliver targeted supports and services.
- B.C. invests $70 million each year in prevention and intervention services and programs to protect vulnerable women and victims of crime.
- Over the last two years, an additional $7 million in civil forfeiture grants has been targeted to action on violence against women. This has included more than $2.4 million for projects that focus on supporting Aboriginal communities in anti-violence and prevention initiatives.
- B.C. provides a toll-free, confidential, multilingual helpline for victims of family and sexual violence and other crimes, giving victims access to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1 800 563-0808. In 2015-16, VictimLink BC helped close to 14,000 people. The line provides services in more than 110 languages, including 17 North American Aboriginal languages.
- Frontline victims service workers have taken Indigenous cultural competency training so they can use culturally sensitive approaches in their work.