MLA Leonard speaks to Bill 36, Gaming Control Amendment Act

Today, MLA Leonard spoke to Bill 36, the Gaming Control Amendment Act. You can watch the video here, or read the transcript below.


I’m very pleased to be able to stand today in support of Bill 36, the Gaming Control Amendment Act. It is, as has been stated earlier, a significant step to further support First Nations in their self-determination.

I can’t help but think about the issue around equity and fairness when we have brought forward a world where there’s been systemic oppression, that we have systems in place that have not allowed communities to grow and to prosper based on how they’re able to create economic opportunities. This is a vehicle for economic opportunities.

In my own community, the K’ómoks First Nation has three different reserves. They have desires and vision to see economic growth, but they’ve never had the opportunity to tax, to raise the funds that are often needed to gain access to other funding opportunities. This will give them that space now to be able to really move forward with a lot of vigour on various opportunities.

It’s not just infrastructure, although infrastructure is some­thing that those of us from municipalities know very well. Residents want to see good sewers, and they want to see safe water supplies. These are opportunities now that First Nations are going to be able to move on, as have been listed earlier: health and wellness, safety, transportation, housing, business development, education, language, culture training, community development, environmental protection, capacity-building, fiscal management and governance.

These are all opportunities that have been rallied by First Nations for so long, and that desire has fallen on deaf ears for so many years. I’m very proud that we are able to take this action in a very collaborative process with the direction of leadership from the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and through the First Nations Gaming Commission.

This is not a top-down approach. This is what is being asked for. It’s not unlike the Union of B.C. Municipalities, which gets federal funding that is then distributed to local governments. Instead of First Nations going to this government to seek funds, it is going to be amongst the people of the First Nations who are handling their own funds. This is British Columbia finally joining along with five other provinces to do what’s right, to find a way to provide the funds for First Nations on their road to self-determination.

I think that when you have an opportunity to do this kind of revenue-sharing, there are questions that we’ve heard today around fairness. Absolutely, the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation made the point that revenue-sharing continues and is not in jeopardy. Revenue-sharing with local governments, including First Nations who host gaming facilities — Courtenay is one of those communities — is not affected, nor are community organizations and health services that already get gaming revenues. This is an opportunity for all of us to work together to help build a prosperous British Columbia for all people.

I think I’m going to stop now. I’m just so very proud that we are moving forward on a request that has been long-standing and that has been developed in a very fair process, in a collaborative way. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this, I expect when this legislation passes, soon to be entrenched and long-standing for 25 years — secure funding to be able to move forward and grow.