BCAFN Sets Priorities for the Year Ahead

News Category
Press Release

The BC Assembly of First Nations is proud to continue working towards the realization of our vision of a future where First Nations inherent laws, lands, and traditions are recognized and respected by all Canadians.

“Last year was extremely difficult for everyone,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee. Regional Chief added, “The COVID pandemic kept us from renewing our relationships through social gatherings, and many of us lost loved ones to the virus. Our lives will continue to be impacted by lockdowns and outbreaks. While the virus remains top of mind, the BCAFN also continues to push for First Nations title, rights and interests. This year, we’ll be committed to seeing reform to the Canadian justice and policing systems, movement on the Calls to Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, support to First Nations to address the climate emergency, and reforming the health system to elimination systemic racism.  We will continue to press for federal legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as it still holds to be the minimum international human rights standard for the dignity and survival of indigenous peoples worldwide.  In BC we will support our Chiefs to ensure that the provincial Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, 2019 is properly implemented, including in the development of an Action Plan. We will also be pushing for recognition of inherent rights and title to our lands and helping to resolve continuing disputes in Wet’suwet’en territory. Reform in child welfare and education are critical during this global pandemic as our families are our most precious resource.”

COVID-19: The BCAFN is pleased to see the roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations in ten First Nations communities in BC; this process must continue in order to protect our elders and knowledge keepers and thereby safeguard our languages and traditions. We will continue our work to ensure that First Nations citizens have up to date information on programs, services, and information during the continued health emergency. 

UN Declaration: The BCAFN is looking forward to the federal adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. However, we also anticipate opposition from several provinces and mis-informed sectors; we cannot let up the pressure. We will also continue our important work on the implementation of the provincial Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, 2019.

Rights and Title: The BCAFN supports nations who are in the process of reasserting their control over unceded territories. We saw the RCMP assume jurisdiction over Wet’suwet’en lands early in 2020, which goes against the spirit of reconciliation and BC’s own Declaration Act. For 2021 we will be working towards negotiated resolutions to any conflicts over jurisdiction, and furthering recognition of First Nations inherent title.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls: The federal government continues to drag its heels on implementing the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice through a national action plan. We commit to hold engagement sessions with First Nations leaders, community members, MMIWG2S advocates, family members, survivors and front-line service organizations to help inform the development of the National Action Plan.

Justice and Policing Reform: Last year saw a worldwide grassroots movement calling for justice for Black, Indigenous and other marginalized peoples. The BCAFN has seen some progress at the Provincial level, with the support for implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy. Now we will be advocating for an overhaul of policing to stop the epidemic of police violence that has cost so many First Nations people their lives. We are also seeking support for the development and implementation of a national First Nations Justice and Policing Strategy.

Addressing the Climate Emergency: While thankfully BC was not on fire last year, we cannot ignore the continuing threat caused by the climate emergency. We will be issuing a new report on forest carbon offset opportunities for First Nations and supporting other work for our communities to take the lead in developing a post-carbon economy.  The BCAFN will be working with the FNLC to engage First Nations in the development and implementation of a province wide First Nations led climate change strategy. 

Education: The BCAFN continues to demand that First Nations learners, institutes, and schools have access to adequate resources and supports. We have seen some positive steps in the Ministry of Education, including a core funding model for First Nations educational institutions, expansion of post-secondary language programming, and reinstatement of tuition-free adult basic education. However, recent changes to the BC School Act were made without adequate input from First Nations, and the BCAFN will ensure that the legislation aligns with the provincial Declaration Act on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2019.

Economic Development: The BCAFN looks forward to supporting new economic opportunities for First Nations in BC through forest carbon offsets, cannabis businesses, and other innovative ways towards prosperity for our communities. We will also be advocating for a new holistic way of measuring economic development that stands as an alternative to the outdated Gross Domestic Product.

“We recognize that 2021 will also be full of challenges,” continued Regional Chief Teegee. “But we are prepared to meet those challenges and continue to support First Nations in this province.  We will continue to monitor the roll out of the COVID-19 recovery strategies, including the vaccinations, which are urgently needed in First Nations communities throughout BC.”

View press release pdf