Local government and first nations relations

Co-operative and productive relationships and improved communication between local governments and First Nations can help close socio-economic gaps between Indigenous people and other British Columbians, and support reconciliation.

Dialogue between local governments and First Nations can be described as engagement and part of neighbour-to-neighbour relationships. While local governments do not have the provincial government’s constitutional obligation to consult with First Nations, there are many practical reasons for engaging with First Nations on matters of mutual interest.

Relationship building

Local governments and First Nations are increasingly working together to discuss common interests, challenges and mutual opportunities for their communities. Working together can include developing communication and collaboration tools such as protocols or service agreements and memorandums of understanding.

The Community to Community Forum Program is a valuable resource for local governments and First Nations to discuss common issues, challenges and mutual opportunities for the benefit of their communities.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities offers a toolkit on service agreements to help communities work through past conflicts, seek benefits in working together, and negotiate robust and sustainable relationships and agreements.

Provincial statutory approvals

When a local government is seeking a provincial statutory approval on a boundary change, restructure, or certain land use bylaws, it is encouraged to engage with its First Nations neighbours. Engagement helps these bodies: explore opportunities for cooperation and collaboration, identify potential issues, and strengthen a neighbour-to-neighbour relationship.

A guide is available offering best practices and resources on local government engagement and the provincial government's constitutional duty to consult with First Nations.

Treaty process

The treaty process provides an opportunity for First Nations to consider membership in a regional district, and determine how they want to interact with their local government neighbours, all of which can enhance relationships between local governments and First Nations.

The treaty process is managed by the BC Treaty Commission, an independent body that helps facilitate negotiations among the governments of B.C., Canada and First Nations, and provides information on the status of specific negotiations around the province. The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation leads the province's participation in treaty as well as other negotiations with First Nations.

Local government representatives participate as part of the provincial negotiating team in discussions on treaty-related matters of interest to local governments through a Memorandum of Understanding between the Union of BC Municipalities and the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs provides support to provincial and local government representatives engaged in the BC treaty process.

Through the treaty process, First Nations can assess the merits of membership in a regional district. This is enabled under the Local Government Act and can be provided for through a final treaty agreement. A Treaty First Nation decision to join a regional district is voluntary; upon becoming a member, the Treaty First Nation generally follows the basic legislative rules that apply to all regional district members.

Most recently Ka:’yu:’k’t’h’/Che:k’tles7et’h First Nations have joined the Strathcona Regional District. An orientation manual was co-created to support local elected officials and staff as well as residents and citizens in moving down the path to regional cooperation and governance.