THE BC United Party said on Friday that the sudden closure of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was deeply disappointing to British Columbians but predictable, following a failure of David Eby and the NDP to engage appropriately with the Líl̓wat and N’Quatqua First Nations.
“This is not the first time this NDP government has put First Nations in a bad spot. David Eby talks a big game about working with First Nations, but this news shows that this important dialogue isn’t taking place. The fact that the NDP government was taken by surprise by this announcement from the Líl̓wat and N’Quatqua First Nations says everything you need to know about their true level of real engagement with First Nations. Reconciliation is supposed to be a two-way street complete with transparency and accountability,” said Ellis Ross, the BC United MLA for Skeena, and former Chief Councillor of the Haisla Nation. “If negotiations and proper dialogue were taking place behind the scenes, Joffre Park would be open today, as it should be, for all to enjoy.”
The two First Nations announced on Wednesday that they would be closing access to the provincial park, one of the most popular attractions in B.C., until September 30. The unprecedented move took the government by surprise which should never happen when dealing with First Nations interests.
“There is a process for asserting title through negotiations and the courts, and in both cases, the broader public interest must be considered. Unilaterally shutting down a public park for a month and a half with no notice to the public is unacceptable and not consistent with the spirit of reconciliation which involves respect and the consideration of all interests. The frustration that First Nations are feeling is valid and what leads to these types of actions,” said Ross.
Countless B.C. families and visitors have had their park visits and campsite registrations cancelled by the government overnight as the NDP scrambled to explain the sudden closure, he noted.
“Building strong and collaborative partnerships with First Nations was the cornerstone of reconciliation efforts under our previous government. The guiding principles of fairness, trust, and mutual respect were key to delivering outcomes that greatly benefited Indigenous peoples,” said Ross.
“We can celebrate Indigenous traditions in our parks and recognize the strong connection between First Nations and this land that we all call home. At the same time, as we walk the path of reconciliation together, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that we are all working in the same direction. That clearly isn’t happening here and it is a disservice to every British Columbian, whether Indigenous or not. People deserve leadership from their government, not this.”