I call the meeting to order.
Our regular chair is away and Nancy wasn't sure if she was going to make it back in time for the meeting, so I'm chairing the meeting today.
I want to welcome our guests, Jody Woods and Debbie Abbott.
For your own information around the format, it's a fairly formal structure here. We'll ask you to take about 10 minutes to present, and then the committee members will take turns in asking you questions. Those turns will include your responses. For example, in the first round each member has seven minutes to ask a question and get your response, and we will ask you to be complete within that seven minutes.
I'm going to turn it over to you for your opening presentation, and then we'll turn it over to the members for questions.
I am Debbie Abbott. I'm a member of the social development committee for the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
I would like to thank you for inviting me to make this presentation to you today on behalf of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
With me I have Jody Woods, who is a member of the research staff of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
We did bring a bit of a presentation. Because of the length of time, I will just make a few comments from our paper. We have copies for the committee as well. I'll get right into our presentation.
First of all, I'd like to quickly go over the history of specific claims research and policy reform advocacy. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs is a not-for-profit organization representing over 80 first nation communities in British Columbia. Our goal is to improve intertribal relationships through common strategies to protect our aboriginal title and rights.
We also strive to support indigenous peoples at regional, national, and international forums, and continue to defend our aboriginal title through the revival of our way of life politically, legally, socially, economically, and spiritually.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs houses the oldest, largest, and most experienced specific claims research program in the province of British Columbia. It provides research services to any first nation that provides us with a mandate.
In addition to our ongoing specific claims research projects, we focus on providing B.C. first nations with up-to-date information on specific claims and policy reform, and since our inception we have worked tirelessly for the fair, just, and timely resolution of B.C.'s specific claims.
For more than 20 years now, first nations have sought an independent and impartial process for the resolution of their historical claims. The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has been at the forefront of this effort.
The three fundamental failings of the current specific claims process are that Canada sits as the judge and jury over its own conduct, that Canada takes as long as it likes to consider and respond to first nations' claims, and that Canada consistently underfunds B.C. for the research, submission, and negotiation of its specific claims.
is Canada's latest attempt to address some of these flaws, first by establishing an independent and impartial tribunal having the power to make decisions binding on Canada, both as to whether a claim is valid and what compensation Canada must pay, and second, by.... There has been a misprint here.
And second, it does so by establishing timeframes for Canada's response to first nations' claims. These are marked improvements to the existing process.
That said, there are particular concerns that does not adequately address. Some of these have national implications, while others are unique to British Columbia's claims situation. Without significant amendments, Bill C-30 will do little to resolve the backlog of specific claims, especially those arising from B.C.
I will return to this crucial issue in a moment, but I will first outline for you the unique history of reserve establishment that has given rise to so many specific claims in British Columbia, as well as the unique status of British Columbia first nations' specific claims in the large, much growing backlog of claims awaiting action by the federal government.
As for B.C.'s unique claims situation, in the colonial period from 1848 to 1865, Indian reserves in British Columbia were established by Governor James Douglas, pursuant to his commission from the Hudson's Bay Company and the British Imperial Crown. On southern Vancouver Island, small reserves were established by Governor Douglas as a result of the Fort Victoria treaties. In the Fraser Valley and in parts of the southern interior, Governor Douglas ordered the establishment of large reserves. When Douglas sent his surveyors out, he told them to ask the Indians to point out the lands they wanted to reserve. He wanted them to include cemeteries, hunting grounds, villages, gardens, and favourite resorts.
From 1866 to 1870, his successors proceeded unilaterally to cut back significantly, or cut off, Douglas reserves. In 1871, British Columbia entered Confederation. In the post-Confederation period, from 1871 to 1905, several federal-provincial Indian reserve commissions were appointed to complete the allocation of Indian reserves in British Columbia. These commissions were established and guided by orders in council and formal letters of appointment from federal and provincial authorities. Commission decisions to establish reserves were unilateral executive actions, as no specific legislation, other than the orders in council or treaties, was involved.
Entirely separate from these 19th century reserve commissions, Treaty 8 was signed in 1899. Pursuant to its terms, treaty reserves were created in northeastern British Columbia and in the old Peace River Block.
From 1913 to 1916, another joint federal-provincial royal commission, known as the McKenna-McBride commission, was established to adjust Indian reserves in British Columbia. Many reserves were reduced in size or cut off completely. A small number had acreage added, while most simply had their earlier allotments confirmed by this royal commission. Reciprocal orders in council by both governments approved the McKenna-McBride commission's decisions. As with earlier reserve commissions, the decisions of the McKenna-McBride commission were unilateral and have resulted in many specific claims in British Columbia.
In short, after Confederation, reserve establishment in B.C., with the exception of Treaty 8 in the northeast, did not take place pursuant to treaties, but rather through a series of joint federal-provincial reserve commissions that were established without the input of first nations, and whose reserve decisions were made without the consent of first nations. Before 1938, these allotted reserve lands, although promised to the first nations, were adjusted, reduced, and in some cases eliminated without the consent of first nations. These unilateral government actions have given rise to the many historical grievances to be resolved as specific claims.
It is against this historical context that the present circumstances of the B.C. first nations' specific claims need to be addressed. In British Columbia, there are over 200 individual Indian bands or first nations living on over 1,680 small Indian reserves.
Essentially, these reserves comprise the second smallest reserve land base in Canada, yet we have the third largest on-reserve population in the country.
Wrapping up very quickly, there are two things. We look at the creation of the specific claims tribunal and we find that the tribunal is still, again, not addressing the conflict of interest on the part of the federal government. The conflict of interest of Canada sitting in judgment against itself is not fully removed. In our briefing note, we also talk about the accessibility and the issues of that, of the tribunal, the standards for claim submission. Funding is a very critical issue for communities wanting to do the research for their claims. We talk about reserve creation claims, remedies.
Finally, my conclusion is that the goals of the specific claims policy were stated to be justice, equity, and prosperity for first nations--outstanding business. The existing specific claims process has not realized these goals.
Liberal to the core, Madam Chair.
Thank you, and good afternoon to our witnesses, Ms. Abbott and Ms. Woods. I'm certainly looking forward to your full brief and going through it in a bit more detail.
This is a significant piece of legislation, and one that will impact quite significantly on first nations people and the resolution of outstanding land claims. You touched on a couple of issues that I want you to comment on a little further.
The tribunal cannot award anything outside of cash, in terms of a cash settlement. It doesn't deal with land as such. Once you take a cash settlement, you basically have to quit your claim to certain lands that may be in dispute, for instance, and then you may have to go to the province in order to establish a claim or to take the province or some other interest to court. I find it a bit contradictory if you've already quit your claim and you've taken the compensation. I find that land in itself is a very fundamental issue to aboriginal peoples throughout the country, whether they're in comprehensive claims or in specific claim situations.
So this is my first question. What is your sense of that, that even if you go through the negotiated process or if you go through the tribunal specifically, you cannot be compensated in terms of lands, you can only be compensated in terms of cash?
The government purports that this bill is going to speed up resolution of claims, but it can still take six years from the time the government says, okay, you submit your information, we'll take three years to assess it and see if we're going to accept or validate the claim and another three years for negotiations, unless both parties agree and say, okay, we're quitting this, we're going to go to the tribunal. So that's my second question.
My third question is this. I'm of the understanding that first nations had a direct say in the appointment of judges or adjudicators or people at the tribunal level under Bill C-6. Under this particular piece of legislation, it only says that we may talk to the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations. There's no dual role for each to recommend. As I understand it, under Bill C-6, there would be three people sitting in judgment on a specific claim, whereas under this particular legislation, there's only one judge. How do you feel about those changes, those specific instances of Bill C-30?
On your first question of taking compensation for a cash settlement, as a quick example, the communities I work with live in the transport corridor, Ashcroft and Spuzzum. They are very tiny reserves and they're already divided up by two railways, a highway, and a hydro line. If there is no opportunity for a land settlement, it makes it very difficult to try to purchase additional lands within that very confined transport corridor.
One community I work with is in the process of purchasing additional land, as recommended by the regional office of Indian Affairs. In that recommendation they not only support the purchase of additional land to build new homes on, but the recommendation included paying the regional district $10,000 in lieu of taxes. This very small community is challenged to come up with $10,000 to pay in lieu of taxes. So they're not only expected to purchase land, but they're expected to pay in lieu of taxes. It creates further challenge. There really needs to be a serious consideration of not only cash, but land as well.
Your second question was in terms of the timing. Yes, we know it's going to take six years minimum, and at least it's a start. It's a serious start, because on the work that I have done, we started in 1985 and currently, on behalf of 11 communities that I work directly with, we have 102 claims in the system and many of those have been in the system since that point in time. We need to see resolution, because that most likely deals with one railroad. We still have the second railroad, the highway, and the hydro line to deal with. There needs to be some process that will move the claims forward in a more timely fashion.
We actually were encouraged when there was the possibility of grouping claims, because claims in that transport corridor most likely will have the very same issues, and if we can mutually agree on what types of issues can be brought together to support the grouping or the clustering of claims.... But the final end product would be to allow the first nations to negotiate on their own behalf as to whether or not it would be a cash settlement or possibly even a land settlement.
I appreciate that, but what would you recommend? The government intends to name independent judges. Right now, the government is judge and jury. It decides how much time the process will last and when negotiations will take place. It makes all the decisions.
I am one of those who believe that, with the creation of an independent tribunal, and those words speak for themselves, both the government and the first nations... There must be an atmosphere of trust, but I believe the creation of an independent tribunal would be within the parameters of the agreement with the first nations.
What would you suggest in order to put in place an independent body like a tribunal?
Right now it's really unclear as to how the province will be involved. I think that's something that has to be definitely worked through.
I say that as a result of a very recent court case that happened in British Columbia, the Williams case, and having to go through that. The province had to foot the bill at the end of the day for $60 million, after so many months of court hearings and so on.
So I think there really has to be a commitment for the federal and the provincial governments to get together and sort that one out with the first nations.
I think first that all reserve creation claims must be accepted for review and have access to the tribunal; that there must be no cap on the claims that are considered and that have access to it; and that the issues surrounding conflict of interest must be truly dealt with through the consultation with first nations in B.C. and through their power to make binding recommendations about who sits on that tribunal.
Probably one of the key issues would be increased proportional resourcing to cover the costs of research, submission, negotiation, and access to the tribunal of claims. As I said, there are 65% of the claims in the backlog, 45% of the claims in the system, and—we were talking about this earlier today—we anticipate a high number of new claims. Also, there are a pretty high number of claims sitting stagnant right now without research funding. All of those are going to need the appropriate proportional resources to be advanced and to be dealt with meaningfully.
I think some of the remedies the minister was discussing in his testimony had to do with grouping claims and with joint research. As Ms. Abbott was saying earlier, the general idea of grouping claims is very logical. I think it can move a lot of claims through quickly.
There are still some problems with it. There may be claims that are of similar nature in fact but of different nature in impact. They may not actually fit as easily as they would appear to.
The other was joint research. Generally the idea of joint research is okay. We've pursued this a bit in the past in B.C. We've never actually been able to make it work. We've had, for instance, just some very basic research concerns about access to documents, the wait times we have, and the fact that this situation creates a not-so-level playing field.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I've never heard such balanced questions out of the member for Cowichan in my life. It's quite interesting to hear. You should be in the chair more often, maybe.
I will first start by thanking the members for coming before us today, travelling all the way from B.C. I'll just start off with a question and a point of clarification.
I want to ask whether you are aware of the fact that the sent a letter to the BCAFN regional chief, Mr. Shawn Atleo, in relation to how reserve creation claims would be included in this process and would be eligible to go before the tribunal. If you weren't aware of that, then I guess I'm bringing it to your attention. But if you were aware of it, then how does it change your opinion? Or is your opinion still the same about reserve creations being eligible?
We are aware of the letter. Unless it's legislated, it comes off as another assurance. I can give you an example.
Since that letter was sent, the Okanagan Indian Band also received a letter from the minister in which he informed them that he was backing out of negotiations on their commonage claim. He cited Weyweykum as the reason. Because the claim is over $150 million, it doesn't have access to the tribunal. There is no recourse in the process for this.
So the assurances in the letter seem a bit empty. I think that unless it's legislated, unless it's embedded, there's no guarantee for first nations in B.C. that this will happen.
And thank you for appearing before our committee.
Just to go further on the consultation questions that started out with, we're never quite on the same side when we talk about consultation. I always feel there needs to be better consultation when we're drafting legislation and that it needs to be a true partnership, not just token, as I've seen it in the last little while.
From your answers, I'm getting the feeling that you don't feel there was enough in-depth consultation, and I know you're nodding. What do you think should have been the process to get input, especially British Columbia's, as you say, because of the numbers of claims there? I know it's very difficult also to make one legislation that is going to serve everyone to the same extent, because we have a very large country, and situations in different parts of Canada can be very different. From your point of view from a province where the claims are very different from those in other parts of the country, what do you need to see to feel that this legislation is going to serve the best interests of the first nations in B.C.?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to follow up for a moment on the issue of consultation. I was present in the summer in June when Minister Prentice and Chief Fontaine made the announcement of this new process, and it was clear to me at that point that there had been a lot of discussion prior to that event and a great degree of collaboration. There seemed to be agreement that this was the way to move ahead. Following that, there was a task force established in July to expedite the consultative process across Canada. In fact, if my information is correct, the first nations were given a significant amount of financial resources, $500,000, in order to help them carry out the consultation that was to occur.
My basic question is this. Was there adequate consultation at the regional level, whether that's provincial or even on a level beyond that, to help us as committee members to be assured that consultation occurred?
You mentioned in your opening comments some of the problems with the existing way that specific claims are dealt with, and certainly I think we agree. You mentioned that Canada sits as judge and jury; there are no time constraints, so these claims drag on for an inordinate amount of time; and then there is the underfunding problem with the research that can be done. Certainly I think we agree that those are some issues that need to be addressed.
We have in front of us a proposed bill to begin to move ahead and address many of those issues, if not all of them. I would like to ask a very pointed question.
The process we have currently is obviously failing all of us--first nations and all Canadian people. The process that is outlined here for us, to me, appears to be a giant step forward. Is your group prepared to encourage us as committee members to move ahead with this, recognizing it's not perfect and never will be a perfect document? Should we at least move ahead and improve the system that we currently have, or are you prepared to say this is so bad that we should just continue with what we have and encourage this committee to defeat this legislation?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
You mentioned a little while ago that decisions were made unilaterally and without the consent of first nations when Bill C-30 was prepared.
On June 12, 2007, the prime minister and the national chief announced a new plan of action that would provide for discussions between government officials and leaders of the first nations. On July 25, the then minister, Jim Prentice, and chief Fontaine set up a Canada-AFN task force.
When he appeared on February 6, the present minister said he took into consideration its recommendations and previous critics found in the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples report, “Negotiation or confrontation: It’s Canada’s Choice”.
What is your opinion on the task force the minister mentioned in this report for the development of Bill C-30?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
You suggested that there's a need for amendments, and you had a couple of concerns with regard to the bill. If it's all right with you, I just want to go through those specific concerns that I've identified. You can just tell me if indeed these are the sticking points for you.
In terms of the judicial independence, you expressed some concern with regard to that. My understanding is that these judges will be selected from within the Superior Court system—these are Superior Court justices—and that the recommendation for these judges to become judges within this process would be a recommendation from the justice department along with the Assembly of First Nations.
I'm just wondering if you believe this process, with these judges already serving in a capacity of maximum independence currently from the government, and then of course with the government not making the appointments, but the AFN, along with the justice department...do you feel that provides enough assurance that these judges will be independent?
I'll just move on to another issue that you seem to have concerns with, and that is with regard to reserve formation. I might just draw your attention to paragraph 14(c), and of course this is with regard to grounds for compensation. I know you had concerns with regard to reserve formation and the issues surrounding that. I'm wondering how you would amend paragraph 14(c) so that it more strongly addresses the concern you identified. It reads:
||(c) a breach of a legal obligation arising from the Crown's provision of reserve lands, including unilateral undertakings that give rise to a fiduciary obligation at law
--and it goes on.
I'm just wondering if you could tell me how you feel we should change that so it addresses the issue you're concerned about--reserve formation--more clearly. Clearly it's in the legislation. I'm just wondering if there's something specific that you would add or subtract from that point to alleviate that concern more fully.
Again, I don't mind, Ms. Woods, if you comment directly--either one.
I want to come back to the appointment of the tribunal for a moment. It relates to a question I asked earlier around the political accord. In fact, the process that includes the Assembly of First Nations is actually in the political accord, not in the legislation.
The legislation talks about the fact that the Governor in Council shall establish a roster of 6 to 18 Superior Court judges to act as members of the tribunal. The political accord says of participation in appointments to the tribunal that “The National Chief will be engaged in the process for recommending members of the Tribunal in a manner which respects the confidentiality of that process”.
My question earlier had been about confidence in the political accord. What, in your view, would need to change around the political accord and/or the legislation in order to create the level of confidence that the Assembly of First Nations or first nations would be involved in actually making binding recommendations? What, in your view, has to change?
But they didn't have the ability, because of confidentiality agreements, to come forth and actually talk to you about what it was. So they were bound by an agreement that actually didn't allow them to speak to you?
A witness: Right, exactly.
The Vice-Chair (Ms. Jean Crowder): It's hard to think of that as consultation, when people are tasked with doing consultation but actually can't talk to you. That's a challenge.
I'm not quite done; I still have a minute.
I want to come back a bit. I really do only have a minute, but I'm still concerned about the fact that part of the success of this bill is being presented as the fact that claims will actually be negotiated in a speedier fashion so that they won't have to go to the tribunal. I'm still not clear that, just by saying this will happen, even if you group claims, it's actually going to speed up the process. We know British Columbia is significantly underresourced and is having a lot of challenges with this.
I wonder whether you could comment on that.
We'll cross that bridge when we get there, I guess.
Perhaps we'll get back to some of the elements of your submissions that I'd like to discuss a little further.
You mentioned that there was no involvement of the provinces in this tribunal, or perhaps that there was not going to be necessarily any way for the provinces to be involved. I think it should be said that because this is federal legislation, and of course we can't necessarily compel these provincial bodies to be a part of the proceedings, it needs to be made clear that the tribunal results will actually have an effect, of course, on provinces and it is expected that the provinces will take part in a meaningful way. I believe that to be the case. There has been a lot of support from across the country for this bill. There hasn't been one provincial leader who has spoken out in any way against this process. We've seen good strong support, and I expect that to continue.
In relation to the element that you discussed on the cap, which I think has been brought up by a number of individuals, and you also have raised that point in relation to the $150 million mark, it's our understanding that there's actually quite a small number of specific claims that are above the $150 million mark. It was felt that this bill would capture effectively the ones that are perhaps quite a bit smaller than $150 million, the claims that tend to get lost in the judicial system and obviously lost in the negotiations with the federal government. When we see very small claims in the range of $1 million or perhaps $10 million, these are small claims that I think past governments overlooked. That of course was the reason to bring forward this bill. So I feel this will be a very effective process in being able to deliver results for those small claims.
Now, on calling for the expansion of the cap, going above and beyond $150 million, when we get into claims of that size, I believe those claims in particular would very likely bog down this very tribunal that we've set up, with its specific budget, which has been approved by our government, of $2.5 billion. It's our sense that the larger specific claims needed to be addressed in a more directed manner, through the political offices, to grab hold of them and drive them to conclusion, because I think that is something we've seen in the past that needs to be improved. But once the smaller claims are removed from the system and put into the tribunal, I believe there will be more of a focus on these very substantial large specific claims that aren't as plentiful as the smaller ones.
So in my very roundabout way I've expressed some logic. Do you have any agreement with what I've said?
I guess the thing that really comes to mind is that there needs to be complete fairness to move all communities forward to resolve their specific claims, and I don't know if this would really, truly be the process to do that.
When we see communities that, as Jody had confirmed, had been rejected and now have to wait for the tribunal, there is such frustration of our leaders right now that we really need to see some positive early wins. As our leaders have confirmed, 2010 is around the corner, and they are going to bring the message forward that things are all not as well as they should be. We're very mindful of that and we're really encouraging the best possible opportunities that are here to resolve the specific claims in a manner that is timely and just.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I agree with my colleague in some senses that the government sometimes puts us in the position where either we're for it or against it, and we either accept it and we make no amendments, and then we're all put in a very difficult position.
That being said, part of the committee's work is to study this bill, to listen to witnesses such as you. Sometimes amendments to a particular bill can go through quite quickly if all parties agree that substantive amendments can be made, or not-so-substantive amendments can be made, and that sort of thing.
I want to go back to the appointment of judges. We have heard the government in the past saying that the current judges on the bench were too liberal or liberal-minded, and that we needed to appoint judges that were more conservative-minded. We had the Conservative government questioning the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada and other courts, saying they were too lenient and didn't favour their political ideologies. So I can understand why one had reservations about the government solely being responsible for the appointment of judges without the cooperation or the legislative commitment to have both parties, the aboriginal people and the government, coming forward with recommendations. I can certainly understand your apprehension in that.
Can anybody give me an example of where there is only one judge, at the end of a process with no appeal, making the final decision? I find that troublesome, from my perspective, that there would be a sole judge, with no appeal mechanism after that, making the decision. That is why I think we should have adopted what Bill says...at least three, so there would be various opinions, varied expertise on the bench listening to this particular case.
Would you agree that three as opposed to one would be an improvement in terms of the tribunal process itself?
The gifts keep flowing today, don't they?
I'll go back to the whole issue of process. Do you think the process as outlined under this specific piece of legislation is actually going to speed up the resolution of the specific claims process? I am worried, for instance, that we'll see a jamming up of the process, whereby negotiations fail and then everybody says we have no recourse except to go through the tribunal, and the tribunal only has one recourse, which is to offer you money as opposed to some other type of settlement. And they get this “put the cash on the table”, we raise the ceiling on the cash settlement, and therefore more people will go to the table and solve their claims quickly.
I'm concerned about that. Is that a concern for you, that if they jam up the process you're forced into the tribunal basically because there's nothing else to do except go to court, and maybe the higher cash ceiling is more attractive to people who say “let's get this over with” and the lands are basically done?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm going to split my time with Mr. Albrecht.
Actually he's holding up a document here, “Justice at Last”. This is a document the Government of Canada sent out in June 2007 to all first nations leaders across the country. It outlined much of what we were considering in the drafting of what is now known as Bill . After this was sent out and agreed upon with the AFN, we entered into a good-faith negotiation with the Assembly of First Nations on Bill . Though the drafting of a bill is usually done behind closed doors before it's presented, it was done with the AFN, and as such we as a government feel that we entered into this in good faith with the body that represents first nations people across the country.
My question to you Ms. Abbott is this. Do you believe that AFN is able to enter into that type of negotiation with the Government of Canada? Does it have the legitimacy to do that?
I'm next on the list, so I'm actually going to follow up on that.
Clearly, based on the questions I'm hearing from committee members and the concerns raised about consultation, the crux of it is going to be the consultation piece and whether or not people feel they've been included.
This brochure that's being bandied about is an example of information being sent out to people, but whether that's considered consultation is a really good question. Many of us who have had the opportunity to work with people on reserves know that often mail delivery is highly unreliable. There is an assumption that people actually get the information in their hands. For many people, English is still their second language, particularly for many of the elders. Whether or not people's understanding of the information presented is such that it could be deemed consultation when there is no actual opportunity for them to have input....
I guess because I'm from British Columbia I'd also like to comment on the fact that UBCIC represents a portion of first nations bands in British Columbia, but the First Nations Summit also represents a portion . And there is a very strong leadership council that comes together to work collaboratively across first nations in British Columbia. So while UBCIC represents 80 first nations, that does not reflect how closely first nations in British Columbia work across a variety of interests.
I wonder if you could talk about the consultation process in the context of the amount of time that was allowed for consultation, the lack of recognition of a nation-to-nation status in Canada, and having three or four or five months in which you were not able to share information with the people, because that does seem to be where people are going to come down.
The AFN had an opportunity to consult. You have a disagreement with what's in the bill. The implications are either that the AFN didn't do their job or they're not a legitimate organization, which is one of the arguments I heard the parliamentary secretary use.
My take on that is that it's not a fair representation. What you actually need is added time and resources to be able to conduct that consultation, and there needs to be a respect for a nation-to-nation process.
So perhaps you could comment on that.
There really is a need for proper time and necessary resources.
One of the ways we look to achieve support from political organizations is to see when they are having their meetings and then bringing forward a resolution that is consistent among the three political organizations, so that we have consensus through them as a part of the First Nations Leadership Council. Each organization--the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, the First Nations Summit, and the BCAFN--has an opportunity to bring it forward on its respective agenda.
It's discussed, and then it ultimately shows the support of a majority of the communities, because there are communities in British Columbia that are not party to any of those three organizations. But at least you can start to see the foundation piece having consensus through those three political organizations.
It being 5:15, I need to bring the questioning to a close, because the committee does have other business it needs to consider.
I want to thank you, on behalf of the committee, for travelling across the country on short notice and for appearing before the committee and answering some pretty tough questions. Thank you for you presence and for your journey here today. I wish you a safe journey on the way home.
Go ahead very briefly, Mr. Bruinooge.