Westward Independent

Controversial Land Amendments in British Columbia

by Adrienne Richards
1 comment

The Province is quietly asking for public feedback on their amendments to the Land Act. They are asking for written submissions, no longer than five pages with no website links, no spam, and no profanity. Write to LandActamendments@gov.bc.ca by March 31st 2024.

Even the most fervent NDP supporters have expressed their concern for how this is being pushed through so quickly, without public engagement, or lower level of government’s feedback.

What is the BC NDP looking to change in the Act? In essence, the NDP are proposing an amendment that removes the power of the Ministry to have sole decision-making over Crown land after consultation with Indigenous groups. Decisions such as on leases that cover grazing, water/power projects, land used for logging, and other resources using Crown Land. This amendment will now give Indigenous groups veto power over land tenures and leases of all Crown land – though this point has been down played, from the vague update the public is allowed to see, and the talking heads promoting the amendment. Previously, land lease agreements would be approved by the Minister of Lands. This Act will change the governing of 95% of the province’s land that is currently Crown land.

These proposed amendments extend beyond the rulings of the Supreme Court of Canada, which are grounded in the acknowledgment of Aboriginal rights outlined in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Despite the Supreme Court affirming certain special rights for Indigenous groups such as the right to be consulted in decisions impacting them, it consistently emphasizes that these groups do not possess a veto over Crown land decision-making. The question arises: why is the NDP in British Columbia considering granting such significant authority to Indigenous groups, especially when not explicitly supported by Canada’s existing recognition of Indigenous rights in the Constitution?

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), was turned down by the Canadian government originally until Justin Trudeau signed onto it. It holds many odd caveats such as ‘anyone can claim to be Indigenous’, while holding no legal weight, the new amendments to BC’s Land Act will in fact ingrain these so-called “rights” into B.C. law. The Federal Government met in consultation behind closed doors around bill C15 in 2020. In Bill C-15 discussions revolved around how to place UNDRIP into a ‘whole-of-government’ approach to align with the UN declaration, with a few groups recommending “additional wording to clause 4 of the consultation draft in order to give power to the courts to strike down federal laws that are found to be inconsistent with the UN declaration, or to clearly indicate that the UN Declaration would prevail in the event of an inconsistency.” A few participants suggested sharing tax revenues generated from resource management projects with Indigenous governments, which is now being put through on a Federal level.

The BC government was the first province to adopt UNDRIP five years ago, which was in essence, a handshake deal, with no legal weight behind the ‘sharing’ of land use decisions. In order to give legal weight behind said decision-making over Crown land usage, the Province states it is asking “To seek input on a proposal to enable the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) agreements with Indigenous Governing Bodies (IGBs) for Land Act decisions.” And in order to create the legal authority of Indigenous groups: “The Declaration Act does not give legal effect to the decision-making power(s) for an agreement, so amendments are required to the legislation containing the decision-making power(s).”

Currently, after multiple wins in court by First Nations Bands over rights to land, the province is on record encouraging the First Nations to buy out tenure-holders and property owners, and to that end, it has provided some funding “to support acquisition at a fair market value.” This is leading to a huge transfer of wealth. BC insists that “there are no secret negotiations — the province is committed to transparency and is in regular contact with stakeholders.” Not everyone in the regions currently affected agree, and the government acknowledges receiving “a large volume of correspondence from concerned citizens.”

Questions arise that should be discussed and debated well before this amendment is pushed through in the Spring. Questions such as the fact that 80% of grazing land is on Crown land — will our food chain be disrupted? Will farmers lose any of their grazing land? According to gov.bc.ca “BC is unique in the relatively small percentage of land that is privately owned. This means that access to provincial Crown land is necessary for livestock grazing. Grazing is authorized on Crown rangeland under the Range Act and regulated by the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA).”

Will there be transparency and accountability? First Nations governments are not able to be FOI(d) (Freedom of Information Request) by the public, and therefore can participate in back room deals that the public would not be privy to. No matter what race or creed a person is, they can be without morals, or succumb to corruption and greed. Can the public attend First Nations’ meetings where these decisions are being made? Can the public have a say as they do now through direct contact with the ministries and public hearings, albeit typically a ‘procedural step’?

Will this large shift in governing procedures only benefit the Bands recognized by the Government, many of whom already benefit monetarily from land leases, of which their band members don’t often see the benefits of, and who often live in fear of speaking out against a family or the Band government. And how are these Bands recognized to have ‘ownership’ over areas of lands when First Nations do not believe in owning Mother Nature? It will be called ‘stewardship’ or the like. Where does democracy fit into this amendment? If the farmers who graze cattle, and the companies that produce resources are given a veto to use the land, in lieu of a Band possibly joining with an outside partner, as current governments do, to whom do the taxpayers go to share their concerns? Is the government, who still can’t get clean drinking water to reserves, really having a change of heart, suddenly caring and giving land back to First Nations, or are there other larger global plans in the works that they are using First Nations for?

Australia recently held a referendum on a similar plan based on UNDRIP called ‘The Voice’. At least Australia attempted to go through the democratic means with a referendum unlike the NDP who, in the past couple years, have become notorious for slipping through large bills in the time frame of a month ie: Bill 36, 44, 46, 47, 31 etc. According to Paul Kelly, Editor-at-Large of the Australian newspaper: “The Voice contradicts the principle of equality of citizenship that enshrines and binds together our Nation. The Voice is based on the principle that we have different constitutional rights depending on our ancestry. We need to think about that as a country. And think whether or not we really want that to happen. This is a change in the Constitution that, being realistic, would be forever. What will that mean for the unity of our country?” Racial preference never ends well. Equality of citizenship is fundamental to what it means to live in a democracy.” The ‘Voice’ was defeated by a large margin of over 70% to leave governing as the status quo.

A story was shared with us a few months ago about a local group who was gifted land to build a tiny home village for elders in the community near Mill Bay. Their dream was to create affordable living for retirees, who are in such desperate need for housing these days. After fund-raising for the funds to make applications to the CVRD (who did not give this non-profit a ‘deal’ on application prices) and having the water availability checked to confirm that there was in fact enough water for this tiny home village, they were then told by the CVRD to ask the Malahat First Nations ‘permission’ to use this water. Malahat First Nations denied the usage of water, and the whole project unfortunately died with it. Without knowing the reasoning behind the Malahat First Nations’ decisions, we can only ask if this was an example of veto power becoming more prominent after the new amendments.

Yet, on the other hand, the Malahat First Nations have just joined with Energy Plug Technologies to create a 100k square foot facility for battery energy storage systems, to be constructed at a 52-acre business park on reserve land adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway. This facility will be where imported lithium-iron-phosphate battery cells are manufactured into battery storage packs. While Lithium-Iron-Phosphate technologies do not use cobalt, the lithium extraction is extremely damaging to the water and the land where it is extracted from. For example, in Chile’s Atacama salt flats, mining consumes, contaminates, and diverts scarce water resources away from local communities. Approximately 2.2 million litres of water is needed to produce one ton of lithium. The production of lithium through evaporation ponds uses a lot of water – around 21 million litres per day. Approximately 2.2 million litres of water is needed to produce one ton of lithium. Governments, regardless of which ones, are hypocrites in the ‘green agenda’, and prefer to partake in the trillions of dollars in wealth transfer the ‘Green Transition’ offers, ignoring UNDRIP on one hand when speaking about other Indigenous’ lands around the world, but using it as a prop when appropriate locally.

We have written about local governments breaking multiple UNDRIP sections through purchasing electric fleet vehicles, and understand that UNDRIP was never voted on by taxpayers, and is attempting to usurp Canadian Laws. The Land grab by the UN is only just kicking in with agreements signed by Canada such as, ‘30 by 30’, Agenda 2030, Caribou Recovery Act, Sustainable Development agreements and more. These ‘goals’ can be obtained through legislation such as the Land Amendment, or through Nature Trust and hundreds of other NGOs ‘reclaiming’ land, based on vague statements such as “protection”, “rewilding”, “restoration” and the like, as we see with the Cowichan Bay Estuary situation and hundreds of other locations along our coast. Did anyone vote for the United Nations to have a say over how we govern our lands and resources? If the land given back to the ‘Indigenous’ is not properly cared for or stewarded, the UN states they can come in and take the land into THEIR ‘care’.

Excerpts from UNDRIP; “Affirming also that all peoples contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures, which constitute the common heritage of humankind”; “Affirming further that all doctrines, policies and practices based on or advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust” – And with that, this declaration asserts that NO peoples are superior to another which most in their right minds would agree to.

It is fascinating how we have seemed to devolve as we strived towards ‘progress’, away from consulting with actual locals, to hiring well-connected ‘consulting firms’, from working together in trade and commerce, to dividing people into ‘groups’ who are then so busy fighting each other they can not share their shared values and dreams for their children, giving up our sovereignty and human rights to corrupt governments believing they ‘know what’s best’ for us. If the people of the tribes, not their government, and the farmers and the rest of the ‘salt of the earth’ folks, and not the governments, were allowed to actually come together to talk, share, and learn from each other, without the bureaucracy, what a productive and more peaceful life we would live.


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1 comment

Jan Orrico February 20, 2024 - 12:04 pm

It is actually the Land Act not the Land Use Act. Currently First Nations are asked to comment on any application regarding Land Act applications but having the veto power is totally wrong. These applications also include foreshore applications, private and public wharfs. Anyone with a dock or marina should be taking notes on this change. Google what happened at Ladysmith Marina.


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