Aboriginal self government is a way of life
By Glenn Martin
The British Empire brought to the world some great things, most notably our parliamentary system and the right for citizens to elect their own government.
The right to a democratic and free society is currently being contested greatly in the world today - especially in the Middle East and Asia.
The aboriginals of Canada also seek to have the right of self government - and they have been seeking this for years. To proceed toward aboriginal self government would benefit our country greatly.
The Nisga’a Nation is the first aboriginal nation in Canada and probably in the world, to gain the right to self government.
While this does set world precedence, there are some issues that need to be addressed;
It has been suggested that the Nisga’a Treaty produces a third level of government that is unconstitutional.
While the treaty quite clearly states that the laws of BC and Canada prevail over the final treaty, I agree that the treaty could theoretically produce a third level of government that is unconstitutional.
Quite clearly, aboriginal self government is not possible under our current laws without creating a perceived third level of government that lies between the federal government and the provincial government;
So something has to change.
My solution is to give all aboriginal nations in BC the status of municipalities within the Regional District Act of BC.
This would solve the issue of aboriginal self government they so greatly desire in a means that is within the legal structure of Canada and the democratic world at large under the United Nations.
The current legal status-quo is undermining our ability to progress as a nation and a province - due to the constant legal arguing that we are facing every day.
This is jeopardizing the development of the natural resources in our area for both aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples.
Our current laws are ineffective and are not working properly.
Everyone involved seems to be discontent with the current status quo. Furthermore, some people even think that a solution is impossible.
Well that is simply not true, a solution is possible. The law as it stands now, probably worked very well in colonial times - but is this law working in our modern times?
To establish the new legal working relationship that I am suggesting - giving all aboriginal nations in BC the status of municipalities within the Regional District Act of BC - will require a change to the Constitution of Canada.
The change to the constitution of Canada would be the removing the federal government’s legal right to oversee aboriginal affairs and would require that the federal government give up this legal right to the provinces.
A change to the constitution of Canada in this regard would require a resolution supported by a majority of the members of each of the Senate, the House of Commons and the legislative assemblies in each province.
The last person to make a change to the constitution of Canada was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
So, to achieve true aboriginal self government within the laws of Canada is going to be a tall order - and obviously will create a lot of interesting debate and discussion.
However, anything is possible – even changing the Constitution of Canada - because the laws that we live by change as our social needs change.
Glenn Martin is a member of the executive of the BC Liberal Skeena constituency association, acting as its policy chair.