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Amid protests outside legislature, B.C. throne speech promises action plan for Indigenous communities

NDP throne speech contains handful of new promises
WATCH: The speech from the throne was mostly a list of government accomplishments, with a few new promises thrown in. Keith Baldrey has the highlights.

The B.C. government is promising additional steps to work on reconciliation with Indigenous communities as protests continue outside the B.C. legislature on Tuesday.

In the speech from the throne, Lieutenant-governor Janet Austin outlined the government’s accomplishments over the last year and plans for the next year.

“This government committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many said it could not be done. But this government challenged the status quo,”  Austin read.

B.C. Legislature blocked by protesters, MLA’s being confronted at entrances
B.C. Legislature blocked by protesters, MLA’s being confronted at entrances

“But the work has only just begun. The next step is an action plan, which government will develop in collaboration with Indigenous people.”

Indigenous youth have set up an encampment outside the front door of the legislature in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. Many speaking at a rally before the throne speech voiced concern that the provincial government is not fulfilling its commitments to Indigenous people.

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“We recognize that when we uphold Indigenous law in the face of adversity, we are making ourselves stronger,” one speaker said. ‘We are making our spirits loud and clear and strong. With that we can touch the hearts of people all across this nation.”

Aside from relations with Indigenous communities, the speech focused on affordability issues and giving a boost to those in need.

The province outlined new rules to protect consumers buying tickets to live events. The government also highlighted legislation passed last year to ensure oil companies provide more information on how gas prices are set.

READ MORE: Wet’suwet’en solidarity protesters block entrance to B.C. legislature ahead of throne speech

Austin also said that B.C. government officials will go to Ottawa this month to fight for transparency in cellphone billing.

“This government will continue the work it started two-and-a-half years ago to make life better for people,” Austin read.

Protesters continue to block B.C. Legislature ahead of Throne Speech
Protesters continue to block B.C. Legislature ahead of Throne Speech

The province also used the throne speech to announce changes to support for women fleeing domestic violence. Last year the government announced workers fleeing domestic violence could receive up to 10 days of unpaid job-protected leave.

They are now planning to provide workers fleeing violence with up to five days of paid leave.

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As for transportation issues, the government is extending its transportation capital plan from three years to five years.

“This change will allow for better planning of major projects like the George Massey crossing,” Austin said.

Demonstrators expected to disrupt Throne Speech
Demonstrators expected to disrupt Throne Speech

The speech from the throng included a commitment to improve life for renters, but there was no mention of the $400 rental rebate promised in the last provincial election.

“Government will act on the recommendations of the Rental Housing Task Force to provide more security for renters, and relieve them of the burden of fighting unfair or illegal renovictions on their own,” Austin read.

Austin also spoke of the changes to a no-fault style insurance system, which was announced last week.

“Next year, when drivers renew, they can expect insurance rates to go down by an average of 20 per cent,” Austin read.

“Lower rates, the care you need, and more fairness and accountability.”