CRD forging ahead with plans to include First Nations’ voices

The Capital Regional District is moving ahead with plans to include elected representatives of First Nations on its standing committees, commissions and other board-appointed bodies.

CRD directors sitting on the First Nations relations committee Wednesday unanimously recommended that staff investigate the implications of such a move and get started on drafting the necessary bylaw amendments.

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In a related move, committee unanimously recommended that staff revise the district’s remuneration and travel expense policy to include pay provisions for First Nations’ representatives participating on committees and commissions.

The full CRD board still has yet to sign off on the recommendations, but Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins said “it’s time” the district got on with including First Nations at decision-making tables.

“There’s been a lot of groundwork on this — often very frustrating at times — because we’ve been able to move forward only to a certain extent,” she said.

“So I’m glad we are where we are and we’re moving ahead on this.”

Victoria Coun. Ben Isitt concurred.

“I think it’s an overdue evolution of regional government,” he said. “I think it was an oversight in the past when the CRD was created that Indigenous representation wasn’t provided for.”

A staff report says that including First Nations on the full CRD board is more complicated and requires amendments to provincial legislation. As it stands now, the law prevents First Nations from having a vote at a regional district board without a signed modern treaty.

But the rules do permit the CRD to appoint First Nations representatives as voting members of its committees and commissions, the report said.

Such a change could have a impact on the district’s current or future projects, staff said.

“However, the reconciliation mandate adopted by the board requires that we look to include the perspectives of First Nations in CRD projects and plans, and having greater inclusion on committees and commissions could support a more collaborative and effective process.”

Sooke Mayor Maja Tait, who chairs the First Nations committee, said she’s hopeful the full CRD board will endorse the initiative.

“We’re making so many decisions that impact Nation communities and we’re not hearing how this could impact their own communities,” she said.

“So when we actually talk to the individual stewards of the lands and receive their wisdom into the decision at the decision-making table, I think, just for the future, it will lead to a more positive outcome.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

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