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Civil rights group calls for boycott of “REFERENDUMB”

The BCCLA is calling upon all British Columbians to boycott the provincial government’s ill-conceived referendum on aboriginal treaty negotiations. Far from an example of direct democracy, this referendum is nothing more than the government’s attempt to fulfill a campaign promise they clearly wish they had never made. Far better that the entire referendum idea was abandoned than to invite British Columbians to participate in this demeaning comedy.

Says BCCLA President John Dixon,”This process is not an exercise in direct democracy. It is a REFERENDUMB. Citizens are being asked questions designed to mislead and misinform, the answers to which will be in no way binding upon the government. The entire process is illegitimate, and the BCCLA urges British Columbians to turn their backs on it.”

The BCCLA believes that referenda can be an effective and legitimate form of participatory democracy. But to qualify as such, they must ask simple questions—preferably on finite policy issues, such as “shall we build the bridge”—which at least possibly admit of intelligent “yes” or “no” answers. Questions of deep principle, such as those raised by the treaty process, cannot be dealt with in such a simplistic fashion. Nor is it appropriate for questions of minority rights to be determined by majoritarian decision making in the context of a referendum. Together with the vague and misleading nature of the questions being asked and the fact that any result in the referendum will have no real binding effect on the government’s stance in treaty negotiations, these factors lead to only one conclusion: this referendum is unworthy of the participation of our citizenry.

There is some confusion in the community as to the best way to register your dissatisfaction with the “referendumb”. The BCCLA believes that the clearest and most effective way is simply to refuse to participate. As John Dixon says,” Do whatever else you might like with your ballot: mail it to Geoff Plant with an explanation of your reasons for not voting, give it to a First Nations organization to be burned, or shred it and use it for compost. But whatever you do, don’t legitimate this illegitimate process.”