Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew (left) is vice-chair of Metro Vancouver's aboriginal affairs committee; Community

Metro Vancouver debates touchy issue of Indian Reserve voting

City boundary changes eyed to disenfranchise some residents in civic elections

Metro Vancouver directors are split over whether the regional district should try to block residents of Indian Reserves from voting in future civic elections.

Reserve residents in most cities can vote in municipal elections because the reserves are within city boundaries.

But that ability may have unintended consequences as local First Nations build market condo developments on their reserves and usher in thousands of new non-aboriginal residents.

Belcarra Mayor Ralph Drew, vice-chair of Metro’s aboriginal affairs committee, said the planned Squamish Nation development in West Vancouver could add 30,000 residents who would not pay city taxes but would use city services and have a vote in civic elections.

He argues a reserve voting block that big could alter the outcome of council elections or referenda in smaller cities – perhaps causing the city to spend more on new projects without those residents having to contribute to the cost.

The proposed solution is for Metro cities to seek provincial government permission to redraw their boundaries to exclude Indian Reserves, ending the civic vote for their residents.

“I do not believe we can disenfranchise voters,” said Lions Bay Mayor Brenda Broughton at a Metro board meeting Friday.

Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer called it distorted logic for Metro cities to invert the principle of no taxation without representation and insist on “no representation without taxation.”

If it took that stance, she said, it would have to deny the vote to renters, people in social housing and others who don’t directly pay taxes.

The real issue, Reimer said, is how aboriginal rights and title is reconciled in the modern world.

She said that is best done through negotiation with First Nations and success will depend on good relationships that could be damaged by an effort to deny the vote.

“To focus on this particular issue is unhelpful and in fact quite inflammatory,” added Tsawwassen First Nation Chief Kim Baird, who holds a seat at the Metro board.

Under the terms of the TFN treaty – the only urban treaty so far in the Lower Mainland – residents there no longer vote in municipal elections but do have a vote for school board.

Baird suggested the concerns of cities over taxation and the need for reserve residents to contribute to civic costs can be dealt with through negotiated servicing agreements with the local First Nation.

Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, chair of the regional planning committee, defended the committee recommendation to pursue the issue as a priority item for Metro.

“I don’t think anyone should be offended that we are putting these issues on the table,” Corrigan said. “We are not the decision makers. We just think they are important issues to be discussed.”

Metro already raised the idea with the province last October after the Lower Mainland Treaty Advisory Committee issued a discussion paper outlining local government concerns, but some different directors now sit at the regional table following November civic elections.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong reacted cautiously in a Jan. 11 letter to the board.

“Disenfranchising citizens who live within local government service areas without their consent would be viewed by many British Columbians as undemocratic,” Chong said.

She said the proposal would have “significant and far-reaching impacts” and would require full consultation with First Nations and affected citizens.

Chong indicated her ministry would consider the idea if the new Metro board still wants to pursue it.

No vote was taken Friday because some newly elected Metro directors said they were unfamiliar with the issue and wanted to study the discussion paper.

The Metro board meets again March 30.

Concerns about reserve votes are not an issue in most other provinces, which exclude reserves from local cities.

More than 7,000 aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents currently live on the 22 Indian reserves within Metro Vancouver.

Just Posted

Lagoon improvements, but no safety audit recommendations, coming to Harrison

The lagoon will see electrical upgrades, a new flag pole and fencing, but no life jackets or signs

UFV introduces first mindfulness graduate program in Canada

Most of the University of the Fraser Valley program is offered online

All child porn charges against Chilliwack realtor dismissed

Meissner’s computers contained ‘miniscule’ amount of content normally found on offenders’ devices

Mounties hunt for missing Langley man

The public has been asked to help locate David Grainger, last seen on March 19

B.C. Wildfire crews respond to Sts’ailes, Morris Valley fires

A fire at the First Nation and a grass fire in Mission sent smoke across the valley Wednesday

Harrison Hot Springs students bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life

The adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy include songs and phrases from Canada’s east coast

Vancouver Giant named to Western Conference first-tier all-star team

Young hockey defenceman Bowen Byram is once again lauded for his outstanding efforts on the ice

Permit rejected to bring two cheetahs to B.C.

Earl Pfeifer owns two cheetahs, one of which escaped in December 2015

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Care providers call for B.C. seniors’ watchdog to step down

The association also asks the province to conduct an audit and review of the mandate of her office

Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from B.C. roaster recalled due to botulism scare

“If you purchased N7 Nitro Cold Brew Coffee from Cherry Hill … do not drink it.”

B.C. man gets award for thwarting theft, sexual assault – all in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Punching Parkinson’s in the Fraser Valley

Rock Steady Boxing program, designed to help battle symptoms of Parkinson’s, coming to Abbotsford in April

Baby left alone in vehicle in B.C. Walmart parking lot

Williams Lake RCMP issue warning after attending complaint at Walmart Wednesday

Most Read