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Shuswap MLA to host town-hall meeting on proposed Land Act amendments

Province says changes would not give First Nations veto power over land-use decisions
Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo and Skeena MLA Ellis Ross are hosting a town hall meeting on proposed changes to the province’s Land Act at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. (Photo contributed)

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo is co-hosting an upcoming town-hall meeting on a topic he says has prompted a significant number of calls to his constituency office.

On Friday, Feb. 16, Kyllo and fellow BC United member Ellis Ross, MLA for the Skeena riding, will be at Salmon Arm’s Prestige Harbourfront Resort, where they’ll be hosting the meeting to discuss “significant changes proposed by the NDP government to the Land Act.”

Until March 31, the B.C.’s Ministry of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship is welcoming written submissions on proposed Land Act amendments. The ministry explained on its website that through the proposed changes, “the Province hopes to be able to negotiate agreements with Indigenous governments and begin sharing decision-making on public land use in the late spring of 2024.”

“The NDP’s rushed consultation, with legislation drafted even before the end of the public comment period, reveal an attempt to bypass public engagement and scrutiny,” reads a BC United media release shared by Kyllo. “BC United believes in reconciliation and true partnerships – building on their record of accomplishments in government and pioneering new approaches like their plans for an Indigenous loan guarantee program to ensure First Nations are genuine partners in our shared economic future.”

Central to the issue are agreements under Section 6 and 7 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which establishes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the basis for reconciliation.

Agreements under those sections allow the provincial government to enter “agreements with a broader range of Indigenous governments and to exercise statutory decision-making authority together” and government is now seeking to bring the Land Act in line.

The ministry’s website states the proposed amendments will not lead to “broad, sweeping or automatic changes,” or provide First Nations with veto power over land decisions.

Kyllo said Ellis, a former Haisla Nation Council chief, will be sharing his perspective on the amendments at the town-hall meeting.

Read more: B.C. minister says land act changes don’t give First Nations veto power

Read more: OPINION: NDP Land Act changes must be stopped, BC United says

Read more: 2 months to comment on B.C. plan to give Crown land decision-making to First Nations

“He’s got an interesting perspective about these proposed changes and some of the risks that are associated with giving any governing body essentially veto power over land use decisions in the province,” said Kyllo..

B.C.’s Minister of Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Nathan Cullen and the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) recently responded to this criticism, calling it “fear mongering” and “inaccurate and unhelpful.”

“There is no veto in these amendments,” said Cullen said. “The First Nation Leadership Council confirmed the same thing.”

The FNLC also stressed the changes would not provide veto power, or immediately alter B.C.’s existing land tenure system.

“Rather, they will make space for the recognition and implementation of First Nations’ unceded governance rights in relation to land and resource development in their territories – through negotiation and agreement with the Province in accordance with the Declaration Act – rights which have been largely ignored by colonial governments for the last century and a half,” reads a Feb. 1 FLNC media release.

Kyllo also takes issue with the way the proposed changes and consultation process were introduced.

“There was no outward press release, no notification, they just put a little notification on an obscure portion of a website and opened it up for public consultation,” said Kyllo. “They admitted the legislation was already being drafted before they opened up the doors for consultation.”

The town-hall meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30.

With files by Wolf Depner, Black Press Media.

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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