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Shuswap MLA blames lack of consultation for about-turn on Land Act changes

‘We’ve seen time and time again where the NDP do inadequate consultation…’
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B.C. Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen announced the B.C. government had decided not to proceed with proposed amendments to the Land Act in a statement issued by the province on Feb. 21, 2024. (File photo)

MLA Greg Kyllo credits congregation of concerned Shuswap residents with contributing to what he calls a “huge walk back” by the B.C. government on proposed changes to the Land Act.

On Wednesday (Feb. 21), Water, Land and Resource Stewardship Minister Nathan Cullen announced the government would not proceed with the amendments, citing the need for more consultation.

“Over the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to discuss proposed amendments to the Land Act with over 650 representatives of stakeholder groups representing tens of thousands of British Columbians, from mining, forestry, oil and gas and clean energy, cattle ranchers, to adventure tourism operators, snowmobilers, hunters and anglers, and many others,” said Cullen in a media release.

“From the very beginning of this process, I promised that we would listen and take the time to get any changes right,” continued the minister. “That our focus was to make it easier to work together with First Nations and provide more opportunities for better jobs and a stronger future.”

Central to the issue are agreements under Section 6 and 7 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, which establishes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the basis for reconciliation.

Agreements under those sections allow the province to enter “agreements with a broader range of Indigenous governments and to exercise statutory decision-making authority together.” Cullen said the government was seeking to bring the Land Act in line, as it had already with five other pieces of legislation.

The government’s decision to hit pause on the amendments comes after widespread concern from legal scholars, political opposition, interest groups and private citizens about the consultation process, which had opened in early January and would have concluded on March 31.

Several voices accused government of secrecy – one of them being Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who referred to the minister’s announcement as an “absolute admission” of the government’s “failure to adequately consult with British Columbians.”

“We’ve seen time and time again where the NDP do inadequate consultation… and put forward enabling legislation at the tail end of a legislative session with limited and grossly inadequate amount of time to thoroughly canvas questions to properly debate pieces of the legislation brought forward,” said Kyllo, noting notification of consultation was shared on engage.gov.bc.ca – which he referred to as an “obscure website very few people even pay attention to.”

“They admitted the legislation was already being drafted before they opened up the doors for consultation… ,” added Kyllo

In his statement, Cullen commented on efforts made by some to “knowingly mislead the public about what the proposed legislation would do, adding “they have sought to divide communities and spread hurt and distrust.”

Members of the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) shared their frustration with the decision to “postpone introduction of straightforward amendments to the Land Act that would remove barriers to commitments already made five years ago in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.”

Read more: Shuswap MLA to host town-hall meeting on proposed Land Act amendments

Read more: B.C. presses pause on Indigenous-related changes to the Land Act

“We are absolutely disgusted that the opposition leaders of B.C. United and the B.C. Conservatives leveraged the proposed Land Act amendments as a shameless opportunity for partisan political gain,” said Union of BC Indian Chiefs president, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, in an FNLC media release.

In response to the proposed changes and a “significant number of calls and inquiries” received by his Salmon Arm constituency office, Kyllo and fellow BC United member Ellis Ross, MLA for the Skeena riding, hosted a public town hall meeting at Salmon Arm’s Prestige Harbourfront Resort on Friday, Feb. 16. Kyllo said the turnout of more than 325 people exceeded his expectations.

“Many concerns were raised from individuals that were in attendance: how is this going to impact water lot tenures? How might it impact grazing tenures?” said Kyllo. “But of course, we have no information because the government has not been forthcoming. The public meeting was not an opportunity for me to answer those questions because we’re as in the dark as the rest of British Columbia… This was largely an opportunity for members of the community to express their concerns, to better inform both myself and Ellis.”

Kyllo believes the Salmon Arm meeting – and the number of residents who attended – played a part in the province’s turnaround.

“I’m really proud of hard working men and women in the Shuswap who were willing to take time to come out and share their concerns,” said Kyllo, adding things would be different if it wasn’t an election year.

“It’s only because of the great opposition around the province… and the fact that it’s an election year they’re walking this back.”

Cullen said the B.C. government heard “that it needs to take time to further engage with people and demonstrate the real benefits of shared decision-making in action,” and said it would continue to “engage with people and businesses, and do the work to show how working together, First Nations and non-First Nations, can help bring stability and predictability, and move us all forward.”

With files by Wolf Depner, Black Press Media



Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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