Capital Regional District to consider First Nations representation

The Capital Regional District will consider giving First Nations a voice in CRD decision-making, despite concerns raised by Metchosin Mayor John Ranns that it could amount to “representation without taxation.”

Directors agreed to a motion recommending the incoming board consider establishing a committee with First Nations representation. They also directed staff to report on options for more First Nations involvement.

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Ranns and North Saanich Coun. Ted Daly voted against the motion.

“A major divide that needs to be recognized is that we represent and are supported by people who pay property taxes,” Ranns said.

“If we are to have First Nations into the governance framework, the implication is that they would have a legitimate say into what decisions are being made. So you would have people who would be making decisions that would be pertaining to people who pay property taxes by people who don’t pay property taxes into the system.”

Ranns said he agreed with building relationships and had no issue with investigating the issue further, but said it would be unfair to First Nations to suggest that they could expect full representation in the CRD decision-making process until that issue of taxation is resolved.

“It costs the taxpayer in this region a hell of a lot to operate a multitude of services, which the First Nations do not buy into,” Ranns said.

“To give them the expectation that they could sit down here and have an actual say in the operation of this organization without fully contributing to it is unrealistic. It certainly wouldn’t be accepted by the public and there’s a patent unfairness to it.”

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt noted that the Songhees First Nations is a participant in some CRD functions on a fee-for-service basis. “That sound to me like taxation without representation,” Isitt said, adding the step is overdue.

“And it provides an opportunity to have a meaningful and ongoing and effective relationship with these First Nations governments, which have not had a voice for far too long.”

In May, Songhees Chief Ron Sam asked CRD directors for full membership on the board, saying that his people were being asked to pay for services but had no input in decision-making.

Sam noted that the Seaterra sewage treatment program was going to cost the Songhees $3.25 million with more than $400,000 in annual operating costs.

But Ranns argued a fee for service is just that. “It’s got nothing to do with taxation, representation or anything else,” he said.

Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen said when the Capital Regional District took over the regional water supply, the province mandated that First Nations be given a seat on the water advisory committee. “In that sense, there is already a precedent where we have a vehicle to engage them,” he said. “I think there’s all kinds of basis to go forward with something like this.”

Daly said he had no problem with having staff report back on options for bringing First Nations into the governance framework but thought it was premature to recommend establishing a committee.

The motion, which was put forward by Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto, recommends creating either a First Nations standing committee or a select committee with First Nations representation.

Standing committees are appointed by the board chair to provide advice and recommendations to the board. Select committees can be established to consider and report on a specific issue, after which the committee is disbanded.

First Nations membership on regional boards is provided for under the Local Government Act.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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