While senior governments are still “in denial” about Aboriginal rights, local governments on the Sunshine Coast have gotten the message and are proving it by working as partners, Sechelt Nation Coun. Garry Feschuk said at last week’s Community to Community Forum.
“I really appreciate the local governments who really want to work with us, who accept where we’re going and want to do it together,” Feschuk said, contrasting that attitude to the federal government’s refusal to admit its part “in the destruction of our culture through residential schools.”
The forum at the Sechelt Nation longhouse brought together Sechelt, Squamish and Sliammon First Nation leaders with elected officials from the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), District of Sechelt, Town of Gibsons and Islands Trust.
In their remarks, chiefs from all three First Nations acknowledged the emerging and established partnerships with local government.
“We are now at this cusp where we’re seeing an openness for this kind of dialogue in our communities,” Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell said.
Campbell cited Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe’s comment earlier in the forum that “we are a community, recognizing there is diversity.”
Sliammon Nation Chief Clint Williams said his council has developed a good rapport with the City of Powell River and the Powell River Regional District by maintaining open and honest dialogue.
“Respect goes two ways, so does communication,” Williams said. “Sliammon does enjoy productive relationships with the City of Powell River and the regional district. And we’re not just exchanging love notes.”
Sechelt Nation Chief Calvin Craigan welcomed the local government officials to the longhouse, calling it a historic occasion.
“They’re all becoming part of our community,” he said. “It’s about time First Nations and local government initiate a new way of governing.”
Craigan said his council had served notice to Ottawa and the province that Sechelt Nation will work with local governments to develop ways to share resources.
“But we’re going to do it in such a way that the entire community is going to benefit,” he said.
During the forum, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) senior planner David Rafael outlined collaborative processes in place with the Sechelt Nation — including a heritage protocol agreement and joint watershed management accord — and board chair Garry Nohr said the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on Aboriginal title does not necessitate a big shift for the SCRD.
“One of the things I hear over and over is you’ve got to consult. Well, that started happening numerous years ago with the SCRD. So, the court case maybe changes the words a little, but the action is already there,” Nohr said.
“What I found at the regional district,” he added, “is since we’ve been working with First Nations a lot closer, we’ve gotten a lot more done. That’s important.”
Nohr’s final comment was, “The thing I heard today is consent, consent, consent.”
© Coast Reporter