I have no idea what to make of Gordon Campbell's proposed Recognition and Reconciliation Act. There's just not enough information.
The Liberals think it's huge, in a good way.
Some critics - business and First Nations - think it's huge, in a worrying way.
The initiative was born in quiet talks between a few First Nations leaders and the premier's office. The only public document from the government is a discussion paper of less than five pages, plus a map showing the province divided into 23 "sovereign indigenous nations."
It's thin gruel to explain a proposal billed as bringing "seismic change" to the relationship with First Nations.
The First Nations' leadership has started limited consultations in a handful of communities.
But there has been no apparent process for talking to business, municipalities or the non-native public. No public hearings are planned. The legislature's aboriginal affairs committee, inactive since 2001, hasn't been the chance to consider the changes.
Broadly, the act would bring about three sweeping changes.
First, the government would recognize aboriginal title and rights. The province now requires First Nations to prove they have occupied or used territory over generations before it accepts their claims. Under the act, title could be acknowledged without those tests.
Second, the provincial government would accept a First Nations' role in decisions on land and resource use and revenue sharing. A government-to-government partnership would be in effect.
Third, in return, First Nations would make it easier for the government - and industry - to deal with them. Now, the government deals with 203 councils and bands. The act envisions a shift to 20 to 30 "sovereign indigenous nations" that could speak for aboriginals within a region.
The discussion paper includes a map that shows the province carved up into 23 sovereign indigenous nations. The Secwepemc nation, for example, would stretch from Kamloops to Williams Lake to Golden (and into Alberta).
The discussion paper sets out a three-stage approach to implementing the new relationship. The initial level offers a little more joint decision-making then the status quo. The farther First Nations move toward the "indigenous nation" model, the greater the commitment to their right to shared decision-making, a claim on resource revenues and government-to-government relations.
The new act would override all other provincial land and resource legislation, the government says. But it would not apply to private land or current Crown tenures.
The aim is laudable. After 17 years and some $1.5 billion, the treaty process has produced few results. Life in most First Nations is still substandard by economic and social measures. It's hard to defend sticking with the same approach.
But the concerns about the act - in part because of the secrecy - are piling up. Municipalities, especially regional districts, worry they'll lose planning authority to the new indigenous nations. Companies wonder if the nations' share of resource revenues will come from the provincial government's current take, or result in higher payments. The whole notion of a new form of government, with unclear powers, worries some.
At the same time, some First Nations are rejecting the act. They argue the form of title it conveys is too weak and falls short of the standard set in court rulings.
And they're suspicious of the new form of government too, worried about giving up the local authority of a band or tribal council for an as-yet undefined sovereign indigenous nation.
The government hoped to pass the act in the spring, but abandoned the plan at the last minute in the face of concerns. Campbell says it's still a priority.
But this isn't the kind of change to be made without consultation and debate about the impacts.
The best option would be to introduce the bill as soon as possible and put off the debate and vote until the spring, allowing all British Columbians a chance to consider and discuss the implications of this "seismic change."
Footnote: The act never became an election issue, in part because the New Democrats are - at least broadly - sympathetic to the direction the government is going. That increases the onus on First Nations communities, municipalities, business, MLAs and individuals to make sure the act gets a thorough review.