Letters to the Editor

Disenfranchising aboriginal voters is not reasonable

Re: “Metro Vancouver debates touchy issue of Indian Reserve voting,” by reporter Jeff Nagel.

I am a proud member of the Kwantlen First Nation which is headquartered in Fort Langley. We have a number of land parcels that fall under different municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions.

We are a community fortunate enough to live in an affluent and growing part of the Lower Mainland. We are active participants within all these jurisdictions in areas of education, arts and culture, and business. We also try to be good collaborators in all of these areas.

A good portion of our discretionary incomes are spent within our municipalities on goods and services, and we do in fact provide opportunities to these businesses which in turn provide for the economic well-being of all these municipalities.

The Kwantlen First Nation generates revenues from many leasehold agreements with third parties and are able to pay for municipal services such as water, out of pocket. Since we do not actually raise revenues from taxation from our own band members this is a viable option for us. So why is that a problem?

Our land is actually owned by the Crown and as such we are not allowed to buy or sell it to third parties, which makes lease agreements with third parties the next best approach. Why should we pay land taxes for property which we cannot buy or sell fee simple?

We have also been given the right by the Crown to tax non-native business entities which operate on reserve lands. This is to offset monies not collected by regular municipal, provincial, or federal taxation systems. The money goes back to the creation, upkeep and reliance on municipal services such as water.

Our community has formed the Seyem’ Qwantlen Group of Companies LP which abides by the corporate laws that are in place in this country for such business entities. We are subject to tax laws when we do business off-reserve and contribute tax revenues just like everyone else in these instances. Any and all large-scale business development falls under the auspices of this corporate entity and are dealt with as such.

Non-native residents who live on reserve are still able to vote in municipal, federal and provincial elections and are still considered constituents of these governing bodies even if they can’t vote in band elections. They are still represented in this country by the powers that be.

So why would disenfrachising First Nations from municipal elections be a reasonable way to deal with the issues presented by Metro Vancouver?

All 22 First Nation communities that fall under the Metro Vancouver Aboriginal “Relations” Commission should have representation on this board, not just one community.

 

Brandon Gabriel

 

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