Premier Christy Clark and cabinet ministers met with hundreds of aboriginal leaders from around B.C. Wednesday and Thursday in their second annual session, with social issues and energy projects high on the agenda.
Aboriginal Relations Minister John Rustad opened the two-day event with an announcement that Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit has been appointed a senior advisor on aboriginal child welfare. A lawyer and former children and families minister, John has a six-month appointment to look at reasons why one out of seven aboriginal children in B.C. are taken into government care at some point in their childhood.
Education Minister Mike Bernier released the government’s new teaching guide, called “Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives in the Classroom.”
The guide was developed with input from First Nations, Metis and school district leaders, teachers, support staff and post-secondary institutions. It advises teachers to use contemporary history sources, preferably with involvement of aboriginal contributors.
It advises teachers to “avoid reliance on colonial-era secondary sources (i.e. 20th century and earlier texts and resources)” when discussing topics involving aboriginal people, and contains a section on dealing with racism.
Northern B.C. leaders came to the meeting with a demand for greater consultation and scrutiny on energy projects, with disputes over the Petronas-led liquefied natural gas project at Prince Rupert, the Site C dam that has started construction on the Peace River and oil and gas pipeline proposals.
Fort Nelson First Nation Chief Liz Logan and nine other chiefs presented a letter to Clark calling on the province to recognize aboriginal laws and treaties such as Treaty 8, signed in 1899 to protect traditional hunting and fishing in northeastern B.C.
Logan pointed to what she calls a precedent-setting decision by B.C.’s Environmental Appeal Board this week, cancelling a water licence issued to Nexen Inc. in 2012 for water from a small lake to use in hydraulic fracturing operations in the Horn River Basin.
“The company pumped water out of the lake, even during drought conditions,” Logan said. “There were major impacts on the lake, fish, beavers and the surrounding environment.”