Premier David Eby recently appointed three new advisors. They’ll each be attempting to tackle some of the province’s most pressing concerns.
No surprise, Healthcare, Indigenous Reconciliation, and Housing aren’t easy problems to tackle.
But Doug White (Indigenous Reconciliation), Penny Ballem (Healthcare), and former Victoria mayor Lisa Helps (Housing) will attempt to identify new approaches to these ongoing problems.
“Doug, Penny, and Lisa have tremendous amounts of experience, and they are all very motivated to help take concrete action on the issues important to British Columbians,” said Premier Eby in a news release.
Over the next week, we’ll introduce you to each of Eby’s three new team members.
Doug White, Indigenous Reconciliation
White is a lawyer and former Chair of the BC First Nations Justice Council. He is also the director of the Nanaimo Port Authority.
He served as a chief and councilor of the Snuneymuxw First Nation near Nanaimo. He and Eby previously worked together to create BC’s First Nations Justice Strategy.
White understands that many see Indigenous Reconciliation as all talk and no action.
“I’ve heard frustration from all sides,” he told the Vancouver Sun. “We need to collectively figure out the substantive pathway” that leads to real “on-the-ground changes.”
He wants to address issues that have lacked funding or fallen through the cracks. When it comes to reconciliation, there’s no shortage of those.
For example, White plans to tackle the issue of high Indigenous representation in the criminal justice system.
The new advisor has long argued for options to divert Indigenous people from the criminal system when possible. This would mean considering the person’s cultural background and the root causes of crime, including intergenerational trauma.
Jody Wilson-Raybould, a We Wai Kai Nation member and a former federal justice minister, applauded White’s appointment. The two worked together in the past.
“We need to see Indigenous peoples around tables that they haven’t been around before,” she said. “I’m hopeful that Doug and any other Indigenous person that finds themselves in these positions … that they push hard and speak up where some people haven’t spoken up before.”
BC Green MLA Adam Olsen, a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, says White is a good choice. He points to White’s deep understanding of history and politics — from a cultural and legal point of view.
“He comes from a family lineage that has been engaged with the Crown governments over the years,” said Olsen.
Another area of concern for White is policing. He wants to see more Indigenous-led police forces. The Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service is currently the only First Nations-run police service in BC.
“The system of public safety, it’s unlikely it will ever be what those communities need until it emanates from them and their people,” he said.
The BC First Nations Justice Council praised the appointment. They say White is “like the west wind – an undeniable force of nature. If there is anyone that can get government ministries unstuck and working together to advance reconciliation in BC it’s Doug.”
Reconciliation is one of BC’s and Canada’s most pressing and controversial issues. Hopefully, Doug White will use his experience and knowledge to advance much-needed action.