Council Proposes Community Charter Amendment

(July 26, 2017, North Cowichan, BC) North Cowichan Council has agreed to ask the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM), at the upcoming UBCM convention, to support a resolution that will amend the Community Charter. The amendment calls on the provincial government to accord First Nations the same status as provincial and federal governments when it comes to in camera or closed council meetings.

There is currently limited authority to close council meetings to the public to consider information received from First Nations. June 21 was National Aboriginal Day, and a fitting time to start this process, a process that seeks to treat First Nations like other levels of governments when it comes to respecting their confidential information.

We think this is a very reasonable and respectful change to make, says Jon Lefebure, Mayor of North Cowichan. This small amendment to the Community Charter will treat First Nations governments equal to provincial and federal governments when it comes to handling their confidential information, and will allow us to better address First Nations concerns, promote trust and improve relations.

"Providing First Nations governments equal rights to closed meetings when dealing with local governments will help build trust and potentially lead to growth opportunities for economic development, says William (Chip) Seymour, Chief of Cowichan Tribes. We are currently challenged to meet with local governments, or to share details with them that may involve personal or sensitive business information. At times, this hinders our ability to partner. 

UBCM was formed to provide a common voice for local government, and the annual convention serves as the main forum for UBCM policy-making. The convention provides an opportunity for local governments of all sizes and from all areas to come together, share their experiences, and take a united position. The next convention, where North Cowichan Council will ask UBCM to support this resolution, takes place in Vancouver from September 25 29, 2017.