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BC Liberals undermine NW economic opportunity again with divisive and tone-deaf approach to Gitxsan

July 24, 2014 (VANCOUVER) – The B.C. Liberal government’s divisive and tone-deaf approach to relations with the Gitxsan is hurting opportunities for people and businesses who depend on certainty over the Northwest’s land base.

“Rather than addressing Gitxsan concerns respectfully, the B.C. Liberals have taken a divisive approach that is destroying trust and creating more uncertainty in the Northwest,” said New Democrat MLA for Stikine Doug Donaldson. “Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Northwesterners deserve opportunities to make a living and grow their businesses, not chaos and division.”

Donaldson cited recent letters from the Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation to individual Gitxsan hereditary chiefs as an example in a long line of failures.

“The Gitxsan have legitimate concerns requiring government attention. They gave the government over two months to respond to their concerns on treaty negotiations and preserve ongoing discussions about resource development,” said Donaldson. “Instead of responding, the B.C. Liberals waited four days past the deadline then sent a letter to some hereditary chiefs that disregarded concerns and outlined a non-negotiable offer for the Gitxsan nation’s approval of two LNG pipeline projects.”

New Democrat spokesperson for Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Scott Fraser says the government must change its approach to reconciliation if it is serious about northern prosperity. He noted a litany of other recent failures that have wasted tax dollars and stalled economic development. They include the seven year legal fight with the Tsilhqot’in, breaching the government’s legal duty to consult with the Taku River Tlingit on a proposed mine, failing to say ‘no’ to Enbridge to clear the way for B.C.’s resource development and flip-flopping on environmental assessment of gas wells.

“Premier Clark and the B.C. Liberal government have been divisive, incompetent and neglectful,” said Fraser. “The government just can’t seem to deliver on the basic expectation of dealing respectfully and effectively with First Nations, and that’s moving B.C. backwards on the road to reconciliation and greater economic opportunity.”

The New Democrat MLAs called on Premier Clark to end her government’s failed pressure tactics in the Northwest and direct Minister Rustad to immediately meet with the Gitxsan and deal respectfully and in good faith.

“It’s obvious the B.C. Liberals were unprepared for the Supreme Court’s Tsilqoht’in decision and are still relying on unhelpful tactics despite words to the contrary,” said Fraser, “But the ball is in the premier’s court to start backing up her empty words with new actions that show she cares about creating opportunity for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.”