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Meaningful Engagement with First Nations

Too often, the news reports focus on conflict and controversy between First Nations and other governments or organizations. The recent report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has sparked debate and discussion about the chosen wording or process involved, rather than the positive outcomes that can stem from acknowledging a fact in our history, showing respect and consideration to those who were affected, and looking to rebuild in a positive way from here – hopefully learning from our past to prevent future atrocities of this nature. Too often, the negative news takes the spotlight, when in fact, there are a lot of very positive actions being taken, with multiple success stories.

One of the things I enjoy about being the editor of the LGMA’s  Exchange magazine is we can dig past the shallow news stories that thrive on controversy and report to members about the significant progress and powerful changes taking place at a local level, where local and regional governments are connecting with their neighbouring First Nations to create successful new initiatives based on trust and respect. There’s a growing recognition that living side-by-side means that there are opportunities to work together for shared benefits in all communities. And by taking a moment to shift the lens to be more open-minded, learn from each other and spend time building relationships, a number of areas across the province are demonstrating that there is power and reward from these partnerships.

In Meaningful Engagement Based on Trust and Respect, local and regional governments and their First Nations partners share their stories, including what prompted them to take steps to open doors for meaningful discussions, build trust and leverage their working relationships to benefit their communities. They also share the challenges they’ve experienced and what they have learned that can help others.

As well, in Tsilhqot’in Decision: Impetus for New Relationships, the key components of the Supreme Court of Canada decision to grant Aboriginal title to the Tsilhqot’in First Nation are highlighted from the perspective of impacts on local government and how this landmark decision may affect planning, bylaws, operations and taxation in the future.

In many ways, this province is showcasing multiple case studies that prove working together can be a win-win for everyone and that neighbours are neighbours, regardless of whether they are a Town, District, City, Regional District or First Nation, or anyone else with an interest in supporting communities in a shared area. And it’s notable that most of the progress lies outside a court room and instead is about reaching out, taking time to gain understanding and exploring the opportunities rather than dwelling on the challenges.

It is interesting to learn about the variety of successes in our province and refreshing to focus on positive outcomes and progressive steps towards solid working relationships with First Nations at a local and regional level.


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