Politicians are being asked to consider whether residents of First Nations reserves – including those on Semiahmoo First Nation land – should be excluded from civic votes.

Move to exclude First Nations from vote

Municipal councils in Metro Vancouver are being asked to mull whether people who live on First Nations reserves should be excluded from civic elections.

Municipal councils in Metro Vancouver are being asked to mull whether people who live on First Nations reserves should be excluded from civic elections.

A paper being circulated by the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee, which represents 26 jurisdictions, wants the issue discussed as more First Nations explore market housing, which could lead to large increases in populations on reserves.

It’s an issue that should be looked at seriously, according to Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson, White Rock council’s liaison with the Semiahmoo First Nation.

“For years, I’ve been saying I wish that people would watch what is happening,” she said, noting that the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, a federal initiative to encourage economic development on reserves, could result in development that would mean many more non-First Nations people living there.

At the same time, it would create a situation in which such large numbers of residents – tens of thousands in some areas – have a vote in municipal elections, but without paying municipal or city taxes, Anderson said.

“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 said.

“Any shortfall will have to be made up by the rest of the population (in the municipality).”

But she recognizes the issue raises thorny questions of whether First Nations residents should be denied a voice in municipal or city votes, or whether there should be different classes of voters on the reserves.

“It’s an interesting curiosity,” Anderson said. “Where is the weighing scale of appropriateness?”

As the law currently stands in B.C., all residents of reserves can vote in municipal elections and referendums when the land is located within municipal boundaries – even though their areas fall outside the regulation and taxation authority of local government.

The discussion paper recommends the province amend municipal and regional district boundaries to leave out native reserve land.

“It’s fundamental democratic common sense,” said treaty advisory committee Chair Ralph Drew.

“What’s happened in recent years is the federal government has brought forward new legislation (FNCIDA) to foster economic development on reserves,” explained Drew, who is the mayor of Belcarra.

“We support that legislation, but what it did, it shone a big light on what the implications for local governments are.”

He points to the Squamish Nation’s 2004 Capilano Plan, which features variations of high-density residential development on reserve land between Park Royal South and Ambleside Park in West Vancouver.

In the next 25 to 35 years, the Squamish Nation plans to build about 12,000 condominiums, townhouses and commercial units on it. The development could add 25,000 people to the reserve in West Vancouver.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the size of the City of Port Moody,” said Drew.

The proportion of residents living on-reserve and eligible to vote in District of West Vancouver could increase up to 30 per cent within 25 years.

“They would be determining budgets and service levels and everything else for which they don’t pay for,” Drew added.

Joanne Charles, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor, was not available for comment.

– with files from Alex Browne

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey-based pen-pal program aims to reduce seniors’ isolation during pandemic

South Surrey/White Rock concierge service to connects kids & seniors virtually

COVID-19: Daily update on the pandemic in Surrey, White Rock, Delta and beyond

APRIL 4: Two people in Delta fined for trying to re-sell N95 masks

Surrey veteran feels pinch from COVID-19 after cancelled surgery

Caught between two countries, and low income, soldier feels he’s been forgotten

Man injured in reported stabbing near Surrey SkyTrain station

Incident happened around 9 p.m. Friday night

Peace Arch News ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

‘Hold our line’: 29 new cases of COVID-19 announced in B.C.

Saturday’s number of new cases marks the lowest in weeks.

B.C. community service provider hosts friendly art competition for youth

Theme for Pacific Community Resources contest is ‘finding the silver lining in difficult times’

Critic, workers’ group ‘disappointed’ Trudeau chose Amazon to distribute PPE

Amazon Canada said in an email to The Canadian Press that it is working with Canada Post, Purolator

Full World COVID-19 update: National Guard collect ventilators in New York; Spain, Italy improve

Comprehensive coronavirus update with news from around the world.

TransLink to reduce service on some bus routes, SeaBus, West Coast Express

Changes start April 6 ‘due to low ridership and financial pressures’ amid COVID-19

Sex workers face new risks during COVID-19 pandemic

‘Desperation has kicked in’ for vulnerable, undocumented workers unable to access help

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

Most Read

l -->