Conservative candidate Byron Horner responds to a question during a debate in Parksville on 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. Here is what Byron Horner had to say.
Thank you for your email on October 7, 2019. As the election is only 10 days away I regret that I do not have time to give a full response to the legal and policy questions from the Nuu-chah-Nulth Tribal Council. However, I wanted to give you and the NTC a preliminary response and confirm that the Conservative Party and I support the reconciliation process with all Indigenous peoples.
I know it will take some time for me to build a relationship with the Nuu-chah-nulth leadership but I commit that if I am elected Member of Parliament for Courtenay-Alberni I will meet at your convenience to listen to the issues and concerns of your nations. I also pledge to visit the leadership and traditional territory of each of the constituent nations of the Nuu-chah-nulth in my first year in office.
Conservatives are focussed on working with Indigenous communities on developing policies that make real and measurable improvements in the lives of Indigenous peoples. We support effective investments in access to housing, health services and safe quality drinking water. Conservatives support Jordan’s principle: First Nations children should have the same rights, access to services and opportunities as every other Canadian child. It is critical that government spending translates into meaningful results on the ground.
The Trudeau Liberals have failed to take steps to create sustainable, economic opportunities for Indigenous peoples. Although the agenda for reconciliation must be set by Indigenous peoples, the Conservative Party and I believe there can be no true and lasting reconciliation without economic reconciliation and this was why as I seek to become the MP for Courtenay-Alberni, my campaign literature referenced federal support for Nuu-chah-nulth projects.
I believe it is the duty of the federal government to partner with Indigenous communities to share in the wealth that Canada is so capable of creating and to work side-by-side to create a positive future for Indigenous youth, including increasing economic and education opportunities.
There is new leadership at the Conservative Party and many fresh faces, like mine, running for election.
I would like to see a positive, respectful relationship between the Conservative Party and Indigenous communities. On the one hand, the Conservative Party acknowledged the horrific effects of residential schools and delivered a formal apology in Parliament and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as part of the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. On the other hand, the conservative Party has frustrated many Indigenous communities by not supporting the full incorporation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into Canadian law.
As you know Canada is one of only a few countries where Indigenous and treaty rights are entrenched in our constitution. We believe the UNDRIP contains many important measures, which is why the former Conservative government supported it as an aspirational document. However, we have concerns about whether certain provisions can be reconciled with Canada’s Constitution, laws, and treaties.
Thank you for allowing me to participate in the questions for candidates in the Ha-Shilth-Sa newspaper. Regardless of what happens on October 21st I with you and the Nuu-chah-nulth the best possible outcome with the incoming government.