Letter: Lawyers killed native title legislation

To the editor: Re: Campbell Exits, His Legacy Still Uncertain (Feb. 25 Capital News).

To the editor:

Re: Campbell Exits, His Legacy Still Uncertain (Feb. 25 Capital News).

I appreciated Tom Fletcher’s column regarding the Campbell legacy. When it comes to the New Relationship, I share in the premier’s disappointment that we could not advance the proposal for Recognition and Reconciliation legislation. 

I was a member of the Leadership Council then and I led the community engagement with First Nations leaders and citizens. I worked hard to air out issues, questions and concerns, to inform us as we moved the work forward. 

Most unfortunately, the lawyers for industry, First Nations, local governments, and others recommended the status quo to their clients. This advice, self-serving to the extreme, benefitted only the lawyers. Recognition and Reconciliation legislation failed because governments, industry and First Nations could not manage irrational fears and their legal counsel.

Premier Gordon Campbell provided national leadership and advocacy that resulted in the made-in-B.C. Transformative Change Accord. This tripartite agreement, inked by then-Prime Minister Paul Martin, Premier Campbell, and the Leadership Council of the day (including me) continues today.

It is true that the Conservative government rejected the Phil Fontaine-led Kelowna Accord. The Harper government supports the made-in-B.C. Transformative Change Accord. It is this accord that created the space and opportunity that resulted in the tripartite First Nations health plan. 

This tripartite health plan calls for the creation of a First Nations Health Authority that will take control of decision-making on funding, policy, and services directed to First Nations citizens in B.C. We are working in partnership with Health Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Health Services to reach a legal agreement on moving this work forward.

Premier Campbell provided leadership and advocacy that created a significant opportunity for First Nations to take an active role in closing the gap in health status. In this regard, Premier Campbell has reason to be proud of his work to improve the well-being of First Nations citizens in B.C.

Grand Chief Doug Kelly


First Nations Health Council

West Vancouver