British Columbia·B.C. BUDGET 2019

Revenue-sharing plan welcome, but overdue, say B.C. First Nations

The NDP government says a revenue-sharing agreement with First Nations announced in Tuesday's provincial budget is a historic step toward reconciliation. Some First Nations groups say the announcement is welcome, but overdue.

Budget 2019 promises $3 billion over 25 years for First Nations in B.C.

The provincial government has pledged that $3 billion over 25 years will be shared with First Nations from a dedicated gaming revenue fund. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The NDP government says a revenue-sharing agreement with First Nations announced in Tuesday's provincial budget is a historic step toward reconciliation.

Some First Nations groups say the announcement is welcome but overdue.

"The B.C. 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," said Grand Chief Joe Hall, a former chair of the B.C. First Nations Gaming Commission, in a statement.

The provincial government has pledged $3-billion over 25 years will be shared with First Nations from a dedicated gaming revenue fund.

Finance Minister Carole James said the deal was reached after decades of talks. 

"It's the right thing to do on the path to reconciliation," James said.

Every First Nation community in B.C. will be eligible for between $250,000 and $2-million annually under the agreement.

'Hands up to them'

Hall said he and his colleagues at the B.C. First Nations Gaming Commission have been lobbying for years to secure revenue-sharing from gaming in B.C., but said former LIberal government wouldn't commit.

"I say hands up to [the NDP government] because they are the ones who said we need to address this, and they came back to us after years and years of difficulties with the previous government," Hall told CBCs Robyn Burns.

Listen to the full interviews with Grand Chief Hall and Jay Johnston here

Grand Chief Hall Reacts to Budget 2019 in Victoria 8:57

How it works

 Fifty per cent of the fund will be divided equally among B.C.'s First Nations. The rest will be distributed based on a formula which takes population, size and geographic remoteness into account. 

The First Nations Gaming Commission plans to establish a new B.C. First Nations limited partnership to manage the funding, overseen by a First Nations-appointed board of directors.

Jay Johnston, a negotiator for the BC First Nations Gaming Commission, said the funding plan will allow Nations to create spending priorities based on their own needs and develop economic independence.

"They'll be able to meet needs in their communities in ways they have not been able to do before," Johnston said.

Across the province

First Nation representatives across B.C. reacted on social media.

On Twitter, a Squamish Nation councillor praised the agreement.

The president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council tweeted that she had called for revenue sharing under a previous BC Liberal government.

With files from Robyn Burns and All Points West