Previous Public Input Received
The following input and submissions were gathered by the commission through public hearings held in 29 communities throughout B.C. from September to November 2014. The public also provided input through the online submission form, by email and by mail to be reviewed and considered as the commission develops a Preliminary Report for further public input.
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    Victor York, Spences Bridge
    2014-11-14

    Presentation to the BC Electoral Boundaries Commission

    My name is Victor York, and I am the Housing Manager for Conayt Friendship Society in Merritt. I have also volunteered at Conayt over a 40-year period. I am the former Chief of the Lower Nicola Indian Band for 12 years and Councillor for 3 years, and am a member of the N’laka pamux Nation. I currently live in Spences Bridge.

    I want to thank the Commission for the opportunity to express my thoughts. This is in addition to my verbal presentation in Kamloops.

    I understand the Commission has the mandate to add up to two new seats in regions with rapid population growth, such as in the Lower Mainland communities of Surrey and Cloverdale. I also understand a number of rural regions and constituencies will be protected, including Fraser-Nicola, which is also a good thing considering the alternative – that eliminating rural seats erodes representation for Rural BC in general, and for all the Aboriginal Peoples who live outside Greater Victoria and Greater Vancouver in particular.

    However, Fraser-Nicola is under-populated and the Commission, I assume, is interested in hearing where some population could be added to bring Fraser-Nicola closer to, or within, the acceptable PLUS or MINUS 25% variation.

    I also understand that under Section 9(C), Sub-Section 3(2) for the purpose of making proposals the Commission may propose:
    “(a) changing the names of electoral districts in the Cariboo-Thompson Region, the Columbia-Kootenay Region and the North Region, and
    (b) adjusting or changing boundaries of electoral districts in the Cariboo-Thompson Region, the Columbia-Kootenay Region and the North Region, including, subject to the purpose set out in subsection (1.1) (a), boundaries of electoral districts that are regional boundaries.”

    I would like to cite the principle of “Communities of Interest” as my rationale. The Elections Canada website defines Communities of Interest as such:

    “Community of interest is based on the recognition and acceptance of the idea that a geographically concentrated group shares a certain attribute in common. That attribute might be defined according to location, as with a neighborhood or a set of municipal boundaries; as the product of a common pursuit, such as an economic interest; or as the presence of a common trait, such as a social, racial, religious, or linguistic characteristic.”

    I would like to make the case here that the Nlaka’pamux Tribe do share “a common trait”, such as art, customs, culture, religion, language, etc., as defined, plus we are “geographically concentrated” in the Thompson-Nicola-Eastern Fraser Valley area.

    I further quote from Elections Canada:

    “Drawing constituency boundaries according to a district's communit(ies) of interest is seen as a way of ensuring communication between citizens and their representative and of enhancing the representational process generally.

    If the interest were judged to be sufficiently paramount or, alternatively, if dividing it among two or more constituencies would in some sense harm the interests of that community, then, so the theory goes, it could justifiably be kept intact and made part of a particular riding. In that case, community of interest could be said to have trumped the principle of population equality of the districts.”
    I believe that when the 2008 BC Electoral Boundary Re-distribution process inexplicably bi-furcated the historic 40-plus-year-old Yale-Lillooet Constituency into two electoral districts, it also divided the Nlaka’pamux Nation into two constituencies, thus harming our “community of interest” and “representation” by government. This has bothered me ever since, as well as other Nlaka’pamux leaders.
    As a community, we now have to go to two separate MLAs to plead for government support. However, following the 2009 Election we had to make our case or lobby with two very different MLAs, one was a Government MLA and the other was an Opposition MLA – each representing two different parties, two different philosophies, and two differing sets of values and interests. You see the frustration. This needs to be reversed.
    At least in the prior Yale-Lillooet constituency, First Nations enjoyed similar influence as non-Aboriginal communities. In Chilliwack-Hope, Nlaka’pamux interests are drowned out by the much larger voice of the City of Chilliwack. Now, the Nlaka’pamux people and our territory are divided into two constituencies, thus harming our “community interest” and “representation”. Again, this is very frustrating for our people.
    The Indian Bands in the Fraser Canyon, in and around the communities of Yale and Boston Bar, are part and parcel of the Nlaka’pamux Tribe, and the ones adjacent to the town of Hope share “community interest” with the Nlaka’pamux through centuries-old geographic, historic, cultural, linguistic and socio-economic ties; for instance, nearly half of the people on-reserve on Seabird Island (in Poll 25) speak the N’laka pamux language today due to inter-marriages between our peoples.
    The Elections Canada website offers four reasons to support the principle of “Communities of Interest”, but for my argument I would like to point out the very relevant Reason Number THREE that says:
    “Third, community of interest can enhance citizen involvement in politics. It has been demonstrated that voter turnout increases when boundary readjustments leave voters in ridings with which they share a strong community of interest. Turnout is negatively affected when boundaries are drawn in such a way as to place voters in ridings where they have less in common.”
    Again, this is exactly what happened to Aboriginal voters in the last two provincial elections in Fraser-Nicola and in Chilliwack-Hope when the Yale-Lillooet constituency boundaries were changed in 2009. Aboriginal voter turnout has declined in each of the 2009 and 2013 provincial elections. During the 2013 Election, First Nations’ on-reserve voter turnout dropped on average by 25% and in some instances by over 50%, as was the case with the Bonaparte, Ashcroft, Coldwater, Chawathil and other Indian Reserves compared to the 2005 Provincial Election.

    This has all happened while the Aboriginal populations in these two constituencies are witnessing record growth, but ironically Aboriginal voter turnout is decreasing. Within the boundaries of the old Yale-Lillooet constituency the Aboriginal population was 15% in 1991; 19% in 2001; 23% in 2006; 25% in 2009; and is projected to be nearly 27% by 2017.

    I believe that in the interests of “community”, Polls 1 – 25 from the Chilliwack-Hope Electoral District be added, or shall I say re-instated, to Fraser-Nicola. These Polls were a part of the historic, old Provincial Constituency known as Yale-Lillooet, but were in-explicably removed in the last re-distribution.

    By Elections Canada’s own definition, the “community of interest” in this case is the Aboriginal Nlaka’pamux People. I believe the interests of First Nations and those of Aboriginal governments ought to be given equal weight to that of municipal governments and their community interests. This did not happen in the last go-around as the wishes of Aboriginal leaders in the Hope and Fraser Canyon communities were ignored while the District of Hope’s presentation prevailed.

    I would also argue that the small communities of Hope, Yale, and Boston Bar have more in common with the similarly small-sized, resource-based rural municipalities of Fraser-Nicola such as Merritt, Princeton, Logan Lake, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, Lillooet and Lytton. They have very little in common with the much bigger municipality of Chilliwack.

    Like the people of Fraser-Nicola, who periodically go to shop in Kamloops and Kelowna, many well-meaning people of Hope and the Fraser Canyon may also periodically shop in Chilliwack, but their unique way of small-town life, resource-based economy, and cultural history (i.e., “community of interest”) belongs with the other citizens of Fraser Nicola.

    In conclusion, I recommend the Commission remove Polls 1 – 25 from Chilliwack-Hope and reinstate into Fraser-Nicola to bring the constituency closer to the PLUS or MINUS 25% population variation, thus re-uniting the N’laka pamux Nation as a “community of interest”.

    I further recommend that after reinstating these said Polls 1 – 25 the re-instated Provincial Electoral District again carry the name “Yale-Lillooet.

    I thank the Commission for your time.

    Victor York



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