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No veto in Liberals' promised law on aboriginal rights, Plant insists

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    Fw: No veto in Liberals promised law on aboriginal rights, Plant insists ... From: Doug Kelly Sent: Fri May 01 06:33:49 2009 Subject: No
    Message 1 of 1 , May 1, 2009
      Fw: No veto in Liberals' promised law on aboriginal rights, Plant insists

      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Doug Kelly <DKelly@...>
      Sent: Fri May 01 06:33:49 2009
      Subject: No veto in Liberals' promised law on aboriginal rights, Plant insists

      No veto in Liberals' promised law on aboriginal rights, Plant insists
      Legal framework on decision-making 'incomplete'

      By Vaughn Palmer, Vancouver Sun

      May 1, 2009

      One of the architects of the "new relationship" has offered a middle-of-the-election campaign defence of the B.C. Liberal proposal to recognize aboriginal rights and title in legislation.

      "This project is necessary, commendable and, of course, at this stage, incomplete," argues former cabinet minister Geoff Plant.

      "If we can get it right, its impact, over time, may be transformational in ways that will provide real benefits for both aboriginal communities and for all those who seek to use and develop the lands and resources of B.C."

      Plant was attorney-general and minister for aboriginal relations in the first term of the Liberal government, retiring in 2005.

      During his last months in office, he helped deliver the "new relationship" -- the Liberal government commitment to sharing land, resources, revenues and decision-making with the province's 200 or so first nations.

      Lately, he has been an adviser and sometime negotiator in the effort to create a legal framework for the promised decision-making and sharing.

      The framework -- and not a misguided effort to surrender ownership of the province or to grant natives an absolute veto over land use and resource development -- is the real purpose of the proposed recognition and reconciliation legislation.

      Or so Plant argued Monday in the text of a speech to the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C.

      "The goal is to find more effective ways of ensuring that government can meet its obligations to recognize and affirm aboriginal rights and title. It's not about giving anyone a veto."

      Nor will the Liberals deal away ownership of the province.

      "Existing land and resource interests including fee simple" -- your home and mine -- "are expressly protected. Crown title is expressly protected. The proposal also expressly recognizes that while government and first nations have rights, they also have obligations and responsibilities."

      So the main purpose of the legislation will be routes to shared decision-making.

      "What this means is that rather than work in isolation, governments and aboriginal groups will establish processes to make decisions collaboratively and cooperatively.

      "The idea is to get past the traditional oppositions of 'us' and 'them' and find ways to make decisions that are inclusive, rather than oppositional," Plant said.

      Some observers worry that the emphasis on shared decision-making is a way of smuggling a native veto into the process through the back door. Not so, Plant says.

      "Shared decision-making does not automatically mean that both parties have to agree before some action is undertaken.

      "Aboriginal groups can be incorporated into decision-making processes in ways that make it clear that decision-making is shared, without implying that they will have a bare, unrestricted and unqualified veto."

      I would have to see the wording of the legislation to understand how that could work. And that's part of the problem with this proposal.

      The Liberals announced their intention to go ahead with the recognition act on the basis of a discussion paper. They still haven't shared anything resembling draft legislation with the public.

      Plant pretty much conceded that the absence of a text has fuelled the controversy and compounded the misunderstandings.

      "Part of the challenge here is that the discussion paper is a political document, not a legal document.

      "We don't yet have a draft act to look at and so the commentators are forced to do the best they can with the words in the discussion paper. But it is a mistake to read a political document as if it were a legal structure."

      You get the sense that Plant might wish it had been done differently.

      No threat to ramrod the bill through the house in a matter of days as happened back in March. No raising anxieties with talk of a "seismic change," as per the comments of Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong.

      But here we are, in the final days of an election campaign, with every indication that the Liberals, if they win, intend to move quickly to enact the recognition legislation.

      Drafting continues apace and, according to Plant, the critics have not been ignored.

      "What I can tell you is that the questions that have been asked are being taken into account as the drafters do their work."

      Which is not to minimize the challenges.

      "It will be hard work to translate this proposal into legislation which meets these objectives, answers the critics, and establishes a politically acceptable framework for ensuring that aboriginal rights and title are taken into account in land and resource decision-making in a way that facilitates responsible and profitable development," Plant concedes. "But it's work worth doing."

      I have some doubts. In a subsequent column, I'll lay out some of the criticisms of the government initiative, and Plant's responses to them.


      Read vaughn palmer's blog at vancouversun.com/palmer

      For all the news and analysis of the B.C. election, go to www.vancouversun.com/bcelection

      © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

      Grand Chief Doug Kelly
      Political Executive
      First Nations Summit
      #1200 - 100 Park Royal South
      West Vancouver, BC V7T 1A2

      ph: 604-926-9903
      fax: 604-926-9923
      Cell: 778-834-7537

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