As part of the British Columbia Budget 2019, resident First Nations will now have a stable, long-term source of funding to invest in their communities’ priorities, through a historic revenue-sharing agreement between the province and the First Nations Leadership Council.
Effective from April 2019, approximately $3bn over 25 years will be shared with BC First Nations, meaning every First Nation community in the province will be eligible for between $250,000 and $2m annually through the agreement.
First Nations communities will determine their own priorities for the funding, which can be used for a wide range of benefits, including: health and wellness, housing, infrastructure, training, environmental protection, economic development, governance capacity and other uses.
The agreement to share provincial gaming revenue was reached after decades of work and advocacy by the First Nations Leadership Council, represented by the First Nations Gaming Commission, as directed through resolutions by chiefs at assemblies of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.
The Commission will establish a new BC First Nations limited partnership to manage the funding, overseen by a First Nations-appointed board of directors. Sharing revenue with the communities, said the government, is an important step that puts reconciliation into action. It added that the new agreement is part of BC’s commitment to create a new fiscal relationship with First Nations, recognizing self-government and self-determination.
Grand Chief Joe Hall, former chair of the BC First Nations Gaming Commission, responded to the news. He stated: “The BC government is finally implementing a long-awaited agreement to share gaming revenue that will enable First Nations the opportunity to prioritize critically important community issues that have long hindered their beneficial development.”
Premier John Horgan commented: “This agreement will change lives for the better in every corner of the province. It means consistent, predictable and sustainable funding to support critical things every government needs, like improving infrastructure, implementing long-term planning, and pursuing development opportunities to address the economic, social and cultural needs of Indigenous peoples on the lands that have belonged to them since time began. This is transformative for people, families and communities, and we’re very excited about that.”
In 2017-18, the BC government collected $1.391bn in net revenue from gaming activities. Currently, 31% of total provincial gaming revenue is distributed to fund a Health Special Account, community gaming grants and host local governments. This will remain unchanged, and an additional seven per cent will be distributed to the First Nations new limited partnership. The remainder will continue to go into the Province’s general revenues.