First Nations will choose to embrace the BC Rail deal once all the details come out, Attorney General Geoff Plant says, as aboriginals take a closer look at how they can benefit from it.
And the government’s proposed $15 million First Nations Benefit Trust for 25 native bands is not hush money, Plant said at a stop at the Free Press Thursday.
“I think the deal will be a great deal for all British Columbians,” he said. “When the First Nations take the time to sit down and look at it, I think they are going to support it – they have good reason to support it.”
Plant was in the city to announce funding for several northern First Nations.
The Liberal government has come under heavy fire for the deal. Critics charge the Liberals with withholding details, using the $15 million fund as hush money, and ignoring land claims along railways.
Justa Monk, a member of the Tl’azt’en Nation and a representative of the newly-formed Title and Rights Alliance, said last week the government cannot be trusted.
“They are using the First Nations to attempt to deceive the public and CN Rail,” he said. “The B.C. Liberals are attempting to put a positive spin on an issue that will probably cost them the election next year.”
The Liberals expect $1 billion from the sale but have admitted the deal could last 990 years, with the lease rolled over every 60 years.
Plant said the money is available to aboriginals independent of their opposition to the deal.
“The First Nations would get the money and decide for themselves how to spend it,” he said. “That fund never had anything to do with whether or not they consent to the main deal.”
And it wouldn’t stop First Nations from going to court over land issues, he added.
The trust is to be managed by representatives form each Nation, and used for economic development, cultural renewal, and educational advancement.
Plant announced $508,057 in funding for the Lheidli T’enneh First Nation Thursday, and $282,250 for the Ye Koo Chee Indian Reserve Friday.