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Political Changes to ‘Aboriginal Affairs’ in British Columbia

In the wake of the recent election victory by the Liberal Party in British Columbia, and their second majority mandate, some changes related to the administration of aboriginal affairs have been announced.

From CBC News and via Don at the Protecting Indigenous Knowledge (Yahoo Group), new efforts at fostering better relationships with BC native groups are acknowledged.

To elaborate, note this statement in an article in the Victoria Times Colonist:

Premier Gordon Campbell made a start Thursday at publicly unveiling the new relationship with First Nations that his office has been working quietly on for months.

The document at the heart of initiative … is a draft agreement between the province and the leaders of B.C. natives that holds out the prospect of a new government-to-government relationship, with “shared decision-making” on land and resource issues. Revenue and benefit-sharing are also included, based on recognizing aboriginal title “in its full form.” There is also discussion of new institutions and structures to make the new relationship work at ground level.

And, presumably one of the new institional structures includes moving aboriginal affairs and treaty negotiations into a new ministry now called the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation. (Previously, the Treaty Negotiations Office was part of the Attorney General’s Ministry and Aboriginal Affairs were part of a large ministry that included services for communities and for women.)

I will watch these changes with interest as the new government moves forward. I know that native politicians are watching too — one aboriginal politician I spoke to yesterday expressed a great deal of optimism in the words coming from Victoria. He conceded, however, that some of his colleagues are a little more skeptical and are waiting to see how the words are put in action.

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