First Nations reps on CRD bodies should be paid, regional board told

First Nations representatives should be paid to participate on Capital Regional District committees and commissions, says a report going to the CRD board today.

The recommendation to pay First Nations participants on CRD committees and commissions was one of the “bolder” recommendations of the Special Task Force on First Nations, said Central Saanich Mayor Ryan Windsor, a task force member.

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“Obviously, the expectation would be the same whether they are elected or a liaison providing input to the board. Obviously, the board still has to ratify this and there may be some discussion around that,” he said.

Victoria Coun. Marianne Alto, the task force’s chairwoman, likened the concept to paying for expertise. “If any organization hires someone who has expertise in a particular area, you compensate them. The same basic theory would apply here,” she said.

She said First Nations are being asked by a variety of governments to participate and provide input, but “it’s taking away from the work that they do themselves.”

The rate of compensation has not been established.

The task force also lays the groundwork for the CRD to investigate creating jobs to be filled by First Nations community members, “resulting in the integration of Indigenous knowledge into the CRD’s workplans.”

Alto said that is not the same as affirmative action. Rather, it’s about trying to ensure that when there are opportunities, everybody knows about them.

“Is it an interest in making sure our workforce within the corporation looks like the balance of the community? Absolutely. Does that mean that we’re going to do a 1970s-style affirmative-action program? No,” Alto said.

The task force report makes a number of recommendations, including:

• That the board adopt a statement of reconciliation that focuses on three themes: self-determination, shared prosperity and relationship with the land and water.

• That the board direct staff to provide incoming board members recommendations on “eliminating barriers and systemic discrimination to ensure a corporate environment that promotes equity and diversity in the workplace.”

• That CRD staff undertake a feasibility study for an indigenous Economic Development Partnership Model.

• That the incoming board chairperson establish a First Nations relations committee as a standing committee.

Some ideas would require significant policy and business changes, says the report.

The report also embraces the concept of economic reconciliation through “Indigenomics” — ventures that are indigenous-led or partnerships where business practices are grounded in Indigenous values, worldview and knowledge.

“A cursory scan of the CRD’s activities suggests ample opportunity for innovative partnerships in social enterprise ventures that would serve to benefit all parties,” the report says.

Examples include:

• partnership with private business and First Nations to deliver fiber optics to remote areas of the CRD

• environmental monitoring and data collection

• food farming, post production and marketing

• wildlife management

• marine transportation

• building inspection

• parks interpretation

Eleven First Nations have reserves within the CRD’s boundaries.

The task force, created in 2015, introduces the idea of reconciliation through economic development as a framework for building partnerships with First Nations governments. Task force members include: Alto, Windsor, Sooke Mayor Maja Tait and CRD chairman Steve Price, as an ex-officio member.

Windsor said many of the recommendations will fall to the new board after Oct. 20 local government elections.

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