NDP candidate Gord Johns speaks during a debate in Parksville Sept. 30. (Eric Plummer photo)
With the Oct. 21 election quickly approaching, Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, sent several questions to candidates in the Courtenay-Alberni riding. The questions pertain to a host of issues affecting First Nations on the west coast of Vancouver Island, including fisheries rights, the preservation of Nuu-chah-nulth language and mitigating climate change. Two candidates responded, Conservative candidate Byron Horner and Gord Johns of the NDP.
In the interest of helping to inform voters of how these candidates would advocate for them if elected, the Ha-Shilth-Sa is publishing their responses, beginning today with what Gord Johns had to say.
Five Nuu-chah-nulth nations proved in court they have a right to a commercial fishery almost 11 years ago. The government of Canada has committed to completing these negotiations by spring 2020. If you are government, will you honour this commitment to the five nations?
"The decision of successive Conservative and Liberal majority governments to fight these nations in court, at a cost of millions of dollars, in spite of the affirmation of their inherent rights to catch and sell fish is unconscionable, in my opinion. The economic, social and cultural consequence has been devastating. I have risen in Parliament on many occasions to both object and to bring the voices of the leaders of these nations to Ottawa. Although I am dubious about the commitment to complete negotiations by the Spring, I will push hard for this undertaking to be honoured."
The NCN have long advocated for joint or shared management of the fishery. What is your position on joint management and how soon could NCN be involved in negotiating joint management agreements following the election?
"I fully support all of the recommendations of the NTC Submission to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans regarding changes to the fisheries Act in 2016 including and especially the need for explicit reference to the Minister entering into collaborative management of fisheries and fish habitat through agreements with First Nations. I take the position that this is a foundational requirement and must be addressed as a priority."
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP):
How will you implement UNDRIP if your party forms government? How will you work with First Nations (not organizations), to work on implementation?
"Consultation between First Nations and the federal government concerning land and resource decision-making has not been adequate. Mere “consultation” is not enough. Rights that are entrenched in the Constitution and are reflected in UNDRIP have to be properly recognized by fully including First Nations in actual decision-making when it comes to the use of their lands. New processes for such decision-making need to be established through collaboration between federal and First Nations governments. This is nothing less than essential."
If you form government, how will you define and implement Free, Prior and Informed consent with respect to developments in our territories?
"We would replace mere “consultation” with a standard of free, prior and informed for consent for all Indigenous communities affected by government policies—including for all decisions affecting constitutionality protected land rights, like energy project reviews. We are committed to good-faith consent-based engagement and negotiations consistent with the Tsilhqot’in decision."
Children in care:
In September, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ordered Canada to pay the maximum amount of $40,000 per child in care for discrimination they suffered while in care. If you form government, will you pay the various categories of awards that the CHR awarded?
"Yes. Jagmeet Singh is on record as recently as yesterday during the leaders’ debate (Oct 7, 2019) that a New Democrat government would comply with the Tribunal ruling. Our Caucus has taken this position from the outset."
Funding for First Nations:
The two per cent cap on First Nations funding has been in place since 1996. It has not enabled First Nations to keep up with population growth or inflation. Will your government lift this cap in order for First Nations to catch up financially?
"Yes. I expect that First Nations will include this as a critical component to their reconciliation action plans and I agree that it will be essential to moving forward with reconciliation in a meaningful way."
Tribal Council funding was slashed by 60 per cent in 2012 and has never been restored. If you become government, will you restore this funding so Tribal Council spending can be restored at least to what it was, so their services to First Nations may resume?
"Yes. Cuts to funding for First Nations governing councils, service organizations and agencies under the Conservative majority government of 2012 were crippling and divisive. This has not been rectified under the Liberals and has “fallen off the table” at Treasury Board. I fully support the restoration of funding and, further, the negotiation of multi-year agreements that provide certainty and flexibility in governance and management of operations."
Continuing with reconciliation:
The Liberal government began “reconciliation” tables where First Nations took the lead and said what they needed for reconciliation. If your party becomes government, will you continue with these tables and allow First Nations to determine what reconciliation means to them?
"Reconciliation won’t have meaning until and unless governments at all levels respect the critical importance of First Nations determination of its meaning and direction. Reconciliation tables are important although federal representatives must be fully mandated and the process(es) must be effectively managed. New Democrats would establish a National Council for Reconciliation to provide oversight and accountability to First Nations governments and Parliament."
Climate change measures:
Will you change what Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) funding includes in building new homes to include such things as zero emission homes, clean energy- solar-geothermal and heat pumps? Also, where needed, would this include prevention for outside exteriors, roof protection from forest fires and pumps for flooding?
"Yes. New home construction in First Nations communities has been, over generations, a case study on how not to address housing needs in Canada. The climate emergency and the risk to First Nations families of under-funded housing development (eg. mold, over-crowding, etc.) is unacceptable by any standard. I fully support the common sense green technology identified in your question and will work towards their inclusion by CMHC as an required increase to funding allocations."
Will your government work closely with First Nations to take immediate measures for climate action? Will your government put in place a strategy to combat climate change with urgent measures and in particular to reduce GHGs?
"Yes. Our leader is on record during the election campaign that First Nations must be full partners (in the true sense of the word) in planning and implementation of policy, actions to combat climate change. UNDRIP and common sense must prevail. I have spoken in Parliament."
Supporting Indigenous language revitalization:
If you form government, will you fully fund the Indigenous Languages Act activities and Indigenous children and families issues, including funding for prevention activities?
"I have spoken in Parliament repeatedly on both Indigenous languages; and, Children and Families issues.
"I know from living in Nuu-chah-nulth territory for more than half my life about the devastation of language loss. I also know that there is hope for the future but it lies in properly resourced education programs (in-school and adult education, both). Significant resources are required and I expect that First Nations reconciliation action plans will identify this need and stipulate its priority. Government needs to respond. The economic consequences alone of loss of language are more than off-set by language revitalization.
"With respect to prevention activities for children and families, I am guided by the work of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, Usma Nuu-chah-nulth Family and Child Services and others who have been leaders in this field. I believe strongly that Indigenous families must be supported in providing the very best start in life for their children. Prevention is an important, although not the only, element in the provision of support. Every single child in Canada should have the care and opportunities that they need to succeed and thrive—without exception."
October 10, 2019