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February 13, 2024 – A significant change to the British Columbia Land Act has been put in motion by the provincial government, but most residents in the province have heard little or nothing about it.
New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds the policy proposal from the BCNDP – to initiate co-management of public lands with B.C.’s 204 First Nations in accordance with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act – only well known to 13 per cent of residents. After being informed about the proposed amendment, 94 per cent say this is a major change and diverse views are evident.
Some observers have noted the relative silence surrounding consultations and the lack of a press release typically put forth to spearhead the public conversation. For their part, residents are clear that Indigenous consultation in some form is of importance to them.
One-in-five would share decision-making equally, with a veto option available for First Nations.
Another one-quarter (26%) say only “meaningful consultation” is needed, and one-in-three (33%) say that the B.C. government should share decision-making but maintain final authority.
One-quarter (23%) say they would offer no special status in land decisions to Indigenous groups.
Given the opportunity to share their views on the situation, British Columbians give weight to a number of key priorities. More than half say that the respect for Reconciliation and the leadership shown by the government in including Indigenous partners in decisions are both important to them. That said, concerns about further complicating resource development (which already necessitates the consideration of Indigenous Peoples interests in relevant regions), and economic risks, are equally weighted by the population.
The BCNDP clearly then has a challenge on its hands in balancing these diverging concerns. Exacerbating this is a sense that the consultation timeline has been rushed. One-quarter (26%) say the current timeline offered by the government is acceptable. But more disagree, including half who (48%) want to see more consultation – extending deliberations into the fall or later this year – and one-quarter (27%) who want to kill the proposed changes entirely.
Politically, the risks are evident. Asked how they would vote if this were a key election issue, just over half (57%) of 2020 BCNDP supporters say that the party would be their choice again. Many fall into an undecided camp (20%) that will likely be looking for more information from the government in the coming weeks about the implications of these proposed changes.