First Nation vote exclusion backed

White Rock council has endorsed a recommendation to exclude people who live on First Nations land from civic elections.

Council voted unanimously last week to send a letter to that effect to the Minster of Community, Sport and Cultural Development. It supports recommendations made in a draft report issued by the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee.

The committee, which represents 26 jurisdictions, raised the matter in late July, in response to an increase in First Nations bands exploring market housing, which could lead to large increases in populations on reserves.

The situation could result in large numbers of residents who don’t pay municipal taxes voting, Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson, who is the city’s liaison to the Semiahmoo First Nation, explained last month.

“They would pay their taxes to the First Nations, who can then decide whether or not they want to pay anything to the municipality,” Anderson told Peace Arch News.

In a Sept. 19 report to council, city clerk Tracey Arthur confirms the dilemma.

“The ability of residents living on Indian reserves to participate in municipal elections and referenda is a concern because they are not subject to local government regulation and do not pay local government taxes,” Arthur notes.

While White Rock would not be directly affected – the Semiahmoo reserve is located in Surrey – “the implications of residents participating in local elections where they are not subject to local regulations or local taxes is a policy that is not recommended to be endorsed,” she writes.

LMTAC’s recommendations encourage the province to amend municipal boundaries to exclude Indian reserve lands and “officially exclude Indian reserves from regional district boundaries until the First Nation joins and participates in the regional district on the same basis as their neighbouring governments.”

Last week, Anderson – who is on LMTAC – told council all signs point to strong support for the recommendations.

“It looks right now as though First Nations will not be allowed to participate in voting,” she said.

Later, she hinted that topics LMTAC is currently discussing in-camera will be worth noting. They are “enormously interesting, pervasive and quite cheeky,” she said.


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