January 12, 2016 – Kim Baird – a First Nations insider view of current affairs

a First Nations insider view of current issues

a First Nations insider view of current issues

Kim is the owner of Kim Baird Strategic Consulting and offers services in relation to First Nation policy, governance and economic development, as well as First Nation consultation, communication and engagement issues. Kim is proficient in communication, negotiation and facilitation among other skills. Kim currently has First Nation and Industry clients on a range of issues. Kim has also joined Hills + Knowlton as a senior advisor on public, media and intergovernmental relations including First Nation relations. Kim also is a subcontractor for EY.
Kim was the elected Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation for six terms, from 1999-2012.
She had the honour of negotiating and implementing British Columbia’s first urban treaty on April 3, 2009 and has since overseen numerous economic and institutional development projects for TFN.
Kim was the first woman, who was not an MLA, in BC history to address the BC Legislature on October 15, 2007 when the British Columbia Treaty Legislation process was initiated.
Kim has received a number of prestigious awards, including a honourary doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University Distinguished Alumni Award, Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 Award, Indspire and is a member of the Order of Canada.
She is also a board member of the Vancouver Board of Trade, Canada Public Policy Forum, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Aboriginal Skills Group, and Chief Joe Mathias Scholarship Foundation.
Kim has been appointed to the Premier’s Aboriginal Business Investment Council
She believes strongly in supporting professional and leadership development of young women.
Kim is a proud mother of three young girls and her ancestral name is Kwuntiltunaat.

Notes on Kim Baird’s presentation by John Gunn

Bill Cheb introduced our guest speaker, Ms. Kim Baird, who was Chief of the Tsawwassen Band for thirteen years. She pointed out that a new chief was elected after her 13 years, and the controversy was widely reported in the Vancouver media. It was interesting that, to some extent, this was the first time such things garnered much media coverage. Since that time, the Tsawwassen Band has been much in the news.

As background to her remarks she pointed out that she was involved in the first Band to arrive at an agreement with BC through the treaty process with strong focus on Self Government by the Bands. Among other very notable aspects of the Band is the current construction of a huge mall, value about $800 million, covering an area of over 1.2 million square feet, in partnership with the Cambridge group and development of other areas for industrial use. Their proximity to the huge shipping facilities is important, as well as the ferry terminal. In addition to all this activity, there are also some residential components – in short, the Band appears to be making much out of their land area. All this development, which is bound to be good for the community and the Band members, could not have been undertaken without the treaty process being completed. To some extent British Columbia is in the forefront of new ideas for conciliation and new arrangements. There is really no end in sight for changes within First Nations and their relationship with the Crown. At the same time there is so much work to make various Bands sustainable. Among the most important events lately is certainly the Supreme Court pronouncement regarding land claims, brought to court by the Tsilhqot’in Band in BC. Among other things is a new realization, to some extent as a result of the Supreme Court decision, that First Nations now have huge clout regarding mineral rights on their lands. Over 300 agreements have been recently signed by First Nations with various resource developers and the process continues apace. A total value around $6 billion has been mooted in the press from these agreements. In short, First Nations are open for business, but not at any cost. In pipeline negotiations, for example, there are several competing interests – business vs the environment etc. also community benefits and not forgetting some historic grievances which should have been settled long ago.

Make no mistake, the establishment of this country was based on racial prejudices enforced for well over a century which undermined First Nations aspirations in every way imaginable. Untangling this web of attitudes is nearly impossible. It is a dark history and our recent truth and reconciliation process is only part of what is needed to right this appalling wrong, including residential schools which, we should remember, only ceased to operate in the 90’s. The fact that First Nations, Industry, and the Federal Government can actually work in parallel to solve some of these problems is not rocket science; it is just common sense.

Kim Baird was quick to give credit where due – specifically Kinder Morgan and BC Hydro – both of whom she suggests had a much more enlightened viewpoint on matters where there were competing interests in various projects. Site C, for example, has historic problems which have not been resolved and it appears they will be addressed by Hydro.

The appalling levels of poverty which still exist in some aboriginal locales can be traced clearly to the “Indian Act” and Ms. Baird makes it clear that this act, which has been in force for over 100 years, should be abolished. Because of the Indian Act and other regulations, industry often finds itself in a sort of limbo when dealing with Bands. The rules appear not to be clear. Interestingly, our December speaker, Duncan Davies of Interfor mentioned this as a major problem for forest companies wanting to carry out logging on lands within the First Nations jurisdiction. It is obviously encouraging to see a First Nations person appointed as Federal Minister of Justice and certainly there are many issues to address in that realm, including murdered and missing women, land claims, treaty processes. What has been accomplished in Tsawwassen can be a template for further improvements in other jurisdictions.

Ms. Baird provided so many details that it is hard to summarize. One could simply say that, given the dreadful treatment the aboriginal populace as a whole has suffered over centuries and the enormous complications resulting from the Indian Act, from the interaction of multiple levels of government involvement and the awesome bureaucracy which bestrides the process being attempted, those of us not of the aboriginal community must watch in awe that so much is now nevertheless being accomplished in some areas. It is daunting to speculate how much more is still to be done in order to set right the appalling results of our treatment of that community.

Questions and Answers

What about Tourism?
There are so many aspects to that subject, we are working on a number of parallel projects. Being close to the ferry terminal and all the tourists passing by – this is just one of the focus points.

What do you feel are the responsibilities of mining and other industrial firms towards helping to solve the huge social and cultural problems in the communities in which they operate?
The most important step would be to get rid of the Indian Act, after which the corporations could be involved in helping to solve these seemingly intractable problems, especially in poor remote communities. Due to the act, First Nations communities seem to lack the tools to tackle some of those very problems themselves.

Do other Bands look to Tsawwassen, West Bank, Sechelt and similar successful groups for guidance?
Yes. There are many Bands who have studied what we have done and are trying, in their own way, to copy us. However, there are great complications and the treaty process we went through will not necessarily apply in other cases. In some cases the leadership changes every two years which does not bode well for long-range planning.

How well does the AFN work in your opinion?
Bear in mind that the AFN is essentially a mere lobby group for about 600 nations and so much depends on the leadership. Getting agreements is difficult with so many players and with so many varying conditions regarding treaty rights and such circumstances. Some other areas, which don’t have land rights as well defined as in BC, will have trouble in the near future.

How did your Band put things together so that you could achieve it all?
Baird gave more details than we have space for here – sufficient to say that it was a huge accomplishment and fortunately they had over 90% voting support from the community.

How can Bands do as well as you if their location is not so good?
You would have to deal with each one in the same way as anyone outside the aboriginal cloak would do.

Norm Leach thanked our speaker for her most informative and provocative talk.

 

 


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