Melanie Mark, the first First Nations woman to serve in the British Columbia Legislature and as a cabinet minister, has resigned.
Holding an eagle feather and wearing her grandfather’s beaded mooseskin coat, Mark, MLA for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant, broke into tears and pulled no punches 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.”
Mark — of Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibway ancestry — was first elected in 2016 and served as minister of advanced education, skills, and training and then tourism minister until September 2022, when she stepped down from the portfolio for medical leave “to focus on pressing and urgent personal matters.”
WATCH | Melanie Mark announces her resignation:
In her speech in the Legislature, Mark urged less partisanship and emphasized the importance of education, noting she was the first member of her family to graduate from university.
She spoke about growing up in the Skeena projects in East Vancouver and about her parents, who both lived with alcohol and substance addiction, citing multi-generational scars and trauma left by Indian residential schools and the foster care system.
Mark said she will continue to use her “big mouth” to speak for those who are silenced.
WATCH | Melanie Mark speaks to reporters after her announcement:
“I have been an advocate in public for 27 years, and I’ll continue to advocate and fight from outside of this House … to speak up for the voiceless and for those who don’t vote,” she said.
She thanked the many supporters and family members who were present in the gallery for her speech, including her two daughters and mother.
Mark told reporters she’ll make her resignation official by the end of next month. An NDP spokesperson said a date for a byelection has not yet been set.
Premier David Eby said Mark brought her life experience to the legislature and made sure it was part of her work on behalf of the people of B.C.
“She changed this place,” he said. “She changed this province.”
Opposition Liberal House Leader Todd Stone said Mark is a trailblazer who has paved the way for more Indigenous people in the legislature.
“She is someone who always brought that passion to the work she does,” he said.
Green Party House Leader Adam Olsen, who is Indigenous, said Mark made the legislature a more welcoming place for all people.
“Today, I’m sad we have one less paddle in our community,” he said.