Premier invites First Nations chiefs to meet with B.C. cabinet in September

Premier Christy Clark is inviting First Nations leaders across the province to attend an “all chiefs” meeting with her cabinet in September.

The gathering is the first of its kind since Clark became premier, and will give aboriginal leaders and provincial cabinet ministers an opportunity for face-to-face discussions.

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“We’re working with the [First Nations] Leadership Council, and invitations are going to be going to all the chiefs in the province for Sept. 11 to be held in Vancouver,” said Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad.

The idea had been in the works for almost a year, but has taken on a renewed importance after a Supreme Court of Canada decision last week that granted land-title rights to the Tsilhqot’in Nation, near Williams Lake.

The court ruling is expected to shift the relationship between the province, which manages vast swaths of Crown land in B.C., and First Nations seeking control and title over their traditional territory.

Rustad said the B.C. government is reviewing the decision, but expects the province will need to have figured out a path forward by the time of the September meeting.

“Obviously, that plays into how we build our relationship going forward,” he said.

Regardless, there are still many items for cabinet ministers and First Nations leaders to discuss, including a memorandum of understanding recently signed with some First Nations on ending domestic violence, Rustad said.

The date for the meeting came after seven deputy ministers — including the premier’s deputy, John Dyble — and chiefs from the First Nations Leadership Council met at the legislature on Thursday.

The chiefs “vented” and expressed frustration at the government’s lack of engagement over the last few years, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the B.C. Council of Indian Chiefs told the CBC.

There are more than 200 First Nations communities in B.C. It is not known how many will attend September’s meeting.

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