Thursday February 23, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated February 24, 2023]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
Yesterday MLA Melanie Mark announced that she will be leaving elected politics with the resignation of her seat (Vancouver–Mount Pleasant).
She was the first First Nations woman to serve in the British Columbia Legislature, serving for seven years since her election 2016.
Mark was not included in the new BC Cabinet under Premier David Eby, one of just a few former ministers left off the list on December 7 when Eby announced his first executive council (after becoming Premier on November 18).
Mark told media yesterday that she felt discriminated against in the ‘white colonial’ system of the BC Legislature and government overall.
Emotional in the legislature:
Yesterday in the BC Legislative Assembly, Mark held an eagle feather and wore her grandfather’s beaded moose skin coat broke into tears and didn’t hold back about her experiences in provincial politics, saying that “institutions fundamentally resist change … particularly colonial institutions like this Legislative Assembly and government at large.”
“This place felt like a torture chamber,” she said. “I will not miss the character assassination.”
She noted both education and sport as two “great equalizers”.
Mark said she wanted to “disrupt the status quo” but that institutions fundamentally resist change. “The political system is cutthroat ad dysfunctional,” she said.
“I’m not quitting. If anything I’m standing up for myself” she said.
Yesterday in her remarks, Mark thanked John Horgan for her entrance and participation in politics.
However, during her time in the BC Cabinet, Mark ultimately was part of dropping the ball in handling the BC Museum renovation project. Former Premier John Horgan seemed to have hoped to easily usher through with a project budget of $1 billion dollars (over a 10-year construction period).
Perhaps there is some fault in Horgan perhaps thinking the project was more administrative than political and that it would ‘naturally’ have public support — given that he had two relatively administrative-style ministers handle the Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport portfolio (first Mark, then Lisa Beare).
The museum collections building in Colwood had a construction deadline of 2024 (as announced during the pandemic), but that’s now been pushed to 2026.
List of accomplishments:
Melanie Mark took credit for creating the first Indigenous law school in the world, which happened when she was Minister of Advanced Education, Skills & Training.
She also expressed pride in Article 16 – Indigenous Languages being taught in advanced education and bringing to BC three high profile sporting events, which she listed in this order: Invictus Games (2025), FIFA World Cup (2026), and the Grey Cup (2024).
“It was a lot of fun being a minister and I got a lot of things done,” said Mark, including student housing on her list as well as a sport grant program for kids in care
She led the way on eliminating fees for tuition for adult basic education. She called the provincial tuition waiver “so young kids in care could have a chance” as “the best thing” she did as a member of cabinet.
It should be noted that being a cabinet minister during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy for any of them.
Premier Eby’s remarks:
Yesterday Premier Eby said he respected Mark’s decision. “Melanie changed things by just showing up in this room.” She acknowledged her action to provide basic education for children in care. “She used that opportunity to transform the legal framework of this province,” said Eby.
Eby said he will remember her being on the Vancouver East Side, saying that by “just by showing up and sharing her experience with the advocates who were there, she changed the whole conversation”. She was a politician who understood at a very deep and profound level … the experience of being left behind.”
“Every memory of Melanie will be a treasured one,” said Eby about working with MLA Mark.
Opposition weigh in:
Today BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon said that it still seems more difficult for women in politics, compared to how men experience political leadership. He further expressed support for Mark’s decision to also want to “put herself and her two daughters first”.
Yesterday Opposition House Leader Todd Stone delivered remarks in the legislative assembly, says Mark exhibited passion in support of her people. He thanked her for “the courage to share her personal story”.
On behalf of the BC Green Party, Adam Olsen, acknowledged his ‘relative’ for her work and having been a trailblazer in provincial politics.
New BC Cabinet announced by David Eby (Dec 7, 2022)
BC to host Invictus Games in 2025 (May 24, 2022)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends covers news that has impact on the community — including business, education and local community announcements.
We’ve been doing that since 2008 in the west shore (first as MapleLine Magazine 2008-2010, then Sooke Voice News 2011-2013, then West Shore Voice News 2014-2020), emerging fully online mid-2020 at islandsocialtrends.ca .
Island Social Trends editor and publisher is Mary P Brooke. She has been focussing on news of the west shore through a socioeconomic lens since 2008, with a greater focus on Langford and Colwood since 2014, and since 2017 has been covering BC political news consistently.