The Capital Regional District is forging ahead with plans to include First Nations’ voices on its standing committees, commissions and other board-appointed bodies.
CRD directors sitting as a committee of the whole gave preliminary approval to drafting a bylaw to include First Nations’ participation.
Provincial law prohibits participation on the CRD board by First Nations without a modern treaty in place.
“This is very important to me personally, as I believe our country needs to reconcile, heal and move forward in a respectful and thoughtful way being inclusive of First Nations perspectives, territories, and expectations,” said CRD board chair Colin Plant.
Based on research on what committees’ work might affect or be of interest to First Nations, staff chose the CRD’s First Nations relations, governance and finance, environmental services solid waste advisory, planning, transportation and protective services and regional parks committees. The appointments take effect Jan. 1.
Directors also approved the next step to connect with elected officials from each of the First Nations to see if this list is complete or if a broader area of input would be desirable.
“I suspect with the additional consultation we may not hit January as a start date,” said Plant. “We will go out with an open mind and engage in authentic consultation.”
Plant said he’s optimistic the CRD is on the right path to greater First Nations participation.
While some directors voiced procedural and even logistical concerns, given COVID-19 safety regulations, of having up to nine extra members on the committees, CRD board vice-chair Denise Blackwell said, “everybody around the table believes it’s important and that we get off on the right foot.”
So far, the CRD First Nation Relations staff has connected with seven of the region’s nine First Nations and heard interest from some chiefs.
“If they don’t get traction from a couple of the bands, it’s probably not going to make or break (moving forward),” Blackwell said.