LETTER: Nisga’a parallel state poses tough questions

In B.C., our often-envied Canadian cultural mosaic is at risk of becoming a dysfunctional and tattered societal quilt

Re: Nisga’a prove critics wrong, B.C. Views (Dec. 3)

Despite a perceived regretful tone in Tom Fletcher’s opinion piece, he seems to have had an epiphany that’s led to his urging acceptance of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling which enabled the creation by the Nisga’a First Nation of (Fletcher’s words) “a parallel state” in B.C. Not noted is that Supreme Court rulings can be, and not infrequently are, overturned.

Fletcher, unlike many of us, may never have learned “that two wrongs don’t make a right.”

The first long-standing wrong at issue is the sorry treatment of aboriginals in both B.C. and across Canada.

Despite significant improvements over recent years, more remains to be done.

The second wrong is that the Supreme Court of Canada ruling now enables a new layer of government in B.C.

What’s been created is a “landed gentry” of sorts who’ve in effect received Supreme Court authority to exercise sovereign powers, and they now plan to establish multiple export-enabling LNG terminals on the B.C. coast.

B.C. taxpayers will follow such developments with interest, particularly if there is no parallel commitment by the Nisga’a to assume increasing responsibility for both federal and provincial government services as their “parallel state” business plans prove profitable.

The old adage that “there’s only one taxpayer” could, with Nisga’a concurrence remain a truism.

It’s based on the realization that whether for services provided by local, provincial or federal governments, most voters and elected leaders have long recognized that it’s the voting taxpayer who, over time, determines both government funding levels and program priorities.

Unanswered questions include: Will this aboriginal “parallel state” acknowledge a responsibility to – within its anticipated capability – participate as a fully functional entity within our national federation?

Will it fund a portion of the many provincial and federal government services it now receives? Will it commit to creating and funding its self-determined unique government service programs?

Historical antipathy between First Nation, local, provincial and federal agencies indicates a need for strong but flexible leadership at all four governmental levels. In seeking a comprehensive governmental rebalancing, we’ll hopefully avoid historically based emotional rhetoric supporting retributive rationale if we’re to minimize (costly) long-term confrontational negotiations.

In B.C., our often-envied Canadian cultural mosaic is at risk of becoming a dysfunctional and tattered societal quilt.

Ron Johnson

Saanich

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