A Central Coast Regional District (CCRD) delegation met with the Minister of Municipal Affairs Nathan Cullen three times during the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention Sept. 12 – 16 in Whistler.
“Each of these meetings was in regard to our continuing advocacy for a more inclusive regional district table with our First Nations partners,” said Jayme Kennedy, CCRD chair.
Two of the meetings were joint minister meetings with the Regional District of Nanaimo and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD).
“The heart of our reconciliation advocacy is that most of the CCRD’s residents live on-reserve, yet CCRD is expected to provide services – funded in large part by the property taxes of people who live off reserve – for the benefit of all residents.”
As a result, Kennedy said, the CCRD lacks funding and staff capacity for provision of services at a level of quality similar to other communities of the same size where everyone lives off reserve.
“This means we also don’t have the capacity to meaningfully engage with the four Central Coast First Nations.”
Cullen provided an emailed response to Coast Mountain News Friday and thanked the CCRD for meeting with him at the convention.
“Through our discussion, I have a greater understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities the Central Coast Regional District has to pilot new approaches to working collaboratively with Indigenous partners,” Cullen stated.
“Our government is committed to true, lasting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in B.C. A critical part of this work is encouraging local governments to build strong relationships with neighbouring First Nations and Indigenous governments, and I appreciate and was encouraged by Central Coast Regional District’s dedication to reconciliation and relationship building.”
Cullen said during the meeting he encouraged the CCRD to utilize the Community-to-Community Forum program administered by UBCM, as a tool that can be used to help fund local governments to host ongoing conversations with area First Nations.
“In addition, ensuring that the Central Coast Regional District stay in contact with my ministry as well as the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation as we continue to find opportunities to support local governments in strengthening relationships with their Indigenous neighbours.
This was a topic that was discussed by many other municipalities and local governments, and I am encouraged by this and hope it will lead to further conversations in the future of collaboration and relationship building.”
The delegation asked the ministry for a representative from each Nation, and a revenue stream supporting their participation.
“If there is representation but no money, they will sit at the board table and won’t be able to make very many decisions, and reasons for racist division will continue due to the subsidy being provided by the other electoral areas,” Kennedy said.
The delegation also asked that the minister fund the establishment of two working groups. There would be one for each of CCRD and ACRD, that include First Nations representatives from the respective territories in which these regions exist. The groups would include provincial government staff, and local government representatives. The working groups would be facilitated by an independent third-party, with the objective of developing one or more inclusive governance model(s) for employment in pilots the CCRD and ACRD.
Kennedy said they also asked for funding to focus on collaborative land-use planning with the Central Coast Nations to update the Bella Coola Official Community Plan (OCP) and new OCPs for all CCRD off-reserve lands; and hire a land use officer for collaborative land use management with the Nations, land tenure application commenting, zoning amendment requests, and development use permit applications.
“We also met with a working group from surrounding coastal communities about inequitable service from BC Ferries on northern routes and the ambulance crisis happening now in rural communities like ours,” Kennedy said.
Director Travis Hall for Area B – Bella Bella – was elected to the UBCM executive from the floor.
“Congratulations Travis,” Kennedy added, noting UBCM was a great opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas for “how together our small voices can become much louder.”
With files from Jayme Kennedy