Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation
Dec. 28, 2011
As 2011 draws to a close, Canadians have been confronted by stark examples of poverty in First Nations communities. We've also seen that solutions do not come easily.
Here in B.C., there are about 200 First Nations communities, many in remote regions and many also facing economic challenges. As in other parts of the country, those challenges can sometimes seem insurmountable. There are no quick fixes; but, over the past few years, B.C. has laid the groundwork that we hope will see more and more of B.C.'s Aboriginal communities benefit from the wealth of resources that surround us.
We strive to be innovative in our approach. I believe the work we are doing sets B.C. apart as a leader in providing solutions, developed in cooperation with our Aboriginal partners, that can serve as a model across Canada to help close the socio-economic gaps that exist between Aboriginal people and other Canadians.
In a province that is home to approximately one-third of Canada's First Nations communities - about half of whom are in treaty negotiations - we take a unique approach to addressing the issues created by a colonial past. The fact is we are all here to stay.
We have achieved modern-day treaties with eight First Nations, with many more at an advanced stage of negotiations, and we are committed to ensuring that Aboriginal people across B.C. are an integral part of our economic future.
B.C. has a wealth of natural resources, and companies from across the country and around the globe are clamouring to start projects here that will create jobs and drive our economy. Each proposed new project brings opportunities for revenue-sharing and other partnerships that will flow the benefits directly back into Aboriginal communities, while benefiting all British Columbians.
Revenue-sharing - from mining, forestry operations and oil and gas - is unique to B.C. It helps create certainty on the land base, and builds partnerships with local First Nations and helps to close the socio-economic gaps.
B.C.'s new Forest Consultation and Revenue Sharing Agreements provide economic benefits directly to First Nations communities based on forestry harvesting activities in their traditional territories. Communities can use the revenue to support community initiatives and social programs. We've achieved agreements with 70 First Nations in the past year.
We have also taken steps to ensure that First Nations communities can benefit from mining activity. Economic and Community Development Agreements help First Nations share the direct mineral tax revenue on new mines and major mine expansions. To date, the Province has signed agreements with the McLeod Lake Indian Band in relation to the Mount Milligan Mine, and with the Tk'emlúps and Skeetchestn Indian Bands for the New Afton Mine.
As part of the BC Jobs Plan, Premier Christy Clark made a commitment to reach 10 new agreements with First Nations by 2015 to increase certainty and provide economic opportunities for First Nations. Two months after the Premier made that commitment, we have already seen progress:
In November, we announced a reconciliation protocol with the Nanwakolas First Nations that has the potential for revenue-sharing opportunities from mines and clean-power. In December, B.C.'s first-ever First Nations' woodland licence was awarded to the Huu-ay-aht First Nation, enabling them to harvest approximately 70,000 cubic metres of timber per year.
First Nations in B.C. have also become fully engaged in our thriving clean energy sector, with more than 125 of them currently engaged in clean energy projects. To assist First Nations participation in this sector, in 2011 B.C. introduced the First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund, which has already provided support to more than 30 Aboriginal communities.
British Columbia, First Nations and the business community are working together to create certainty and drive investment that will create jobs for the benefit of all British Columbians. There is much work ahead, but together, government to government and in partnership with business, we can re-connect First Nations to the resources that will unlock a future of opportunity.