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B.C. Indigenous summit addresses the elephant in the backroom

VANCOUVER — British Columbia Premier David Eby says Indigenous leaders “raise an important point” about bureaucrats standing between First Nations and political leaders on the path to reform.

Eby addressed First Nations’ frustrations of trying to change attitudes, relationships and laws in the province at the opening news conference of the eighth B.C. Cabinet and First Nations Leaders’ Gathering, underway in Vancouver.

He was responding to First Nations Summit executive Robert Phillips, who says he’s still waiting to see the province and Indigenous leaders work together on “true co-development” of reforms.

Despite B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act four years ago, Phillips says First Nations teams still face roadblocks behind the scenes as bureaucrats “stop” what he calls the “good messages” from the premier and cabinet.

Eby told the gathering that elected leaders must ensure their expectations about important programs go “all the way through the public service.”

The premier, his cabinet and more than 1,000 Indigenous leaders representing 193 First Nations are attending the conference organized by the province and First Nations Leadership Council, including the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Summit and Union of BC Indian Chiefs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press