This month, British Columbia tabled a bill to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) that, if passed, would make the province the first to enact this legislation. The legislation includes 46 articles that recognize the human rights of Indigenous people, as well as their rights to self-determination.
To provide an update on the status and progress of the commitment from the Government of British Columbia to introduce legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) in BC.
In the February 2019 Speech from the Throne, the Government of BC committed to introducing UN Declaration legislation in the Fall 2019. First Nation Chiefs supported the development of UN Declaration legislation in BC through resolutions of the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), the First Nations Summit (FNS) and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) (collectively the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC)). The resolutions mandated the FNLC to advance the legislation with the Province, with regular reports provided to First Nations at their respective assemblies. Since February 2019, political representatives from the FNLC, along with a legal and technical team, worked with the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) to jointly develop draft legislation to implement the UN Declaration in BC.
The importance of the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation has been emphasized in numerous reports and in work led by First Nations in BC. The 2016 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action included Action #43 that called upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation. The Government of BC, working with First Nations, has committed to respond to that Call to Action.
The Government of BC took the position that a provincial bill to implement the UN Declaration should be modeled after the federal Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration (the UN Declaration) on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Bill C-262 was a private members bill put forward by NDP MP Romeo Saganash which was adopted by the House of Commons but was stalled during the Senate Committee review stage resulting in endless delay, eventually preventing the bill from receiving royal assent.
The UN Declaration was already woven into the work of the Government of BC through the several sources, including Premier Horgan’s Ministerial Mandate Letters, the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement between the BC Green Caucus and the BC NDP Caucus, the Commitment Document: Shared Vision, Guiding Principles, Goals and Objectives (“Vision”), and Concrete Actions: Transforming Laws, Policies, Processes and Structures (“Concrete Actions”).
In the 2019 Throne Speech, the Government of BC committed to jointly design, construct and implement legislation to implement the UN Declaration in BC and discussion has been underway for some time on this based on advocacy from First Nations. There have already been many citations and references to the UN Declaration by the courts, federal and provincial governments to date, including several recent agreements for reconciliation between First Nations and BC, and the new legislation that has begun to reference it in relation to specific areas of joint work.
The First Nations approach to UN Declaration legislation in BC was that the legislative framework must have particular focus to:
1) Review and/or reform laws, regulations and policies to ensure that they are compliant with the UN Declaration based on a new collaborative process;
2) Provide Indigenous Peoples the necessary resources and capacity to fully participate in the review of laws and policies and to engage First Nations title and rights holders;
3) The development of an independent oversight and meaningful process to review and report on progress on implementation and create a clear action plan for the work required to shift from the colonial laws and policies imposed on First Nations peoples and governments in BC to one of collaboration and cooperation;
4) A public education component providing information and knowledge of the UN Declaration and Indigenous peoples’ rights to BC Public Service Employees and the BC public at large.
The legislation would also allow for agreements between the Government of BC and First Nations for decision making on matters addressed in provincial statutes. This will create space for First Nations to have shared or sole decision making in key areas based on agreements with the Province, overcoming an impediment that has held back progress on many areas and has been identified as a priority at several negotiation tables.
The FNLC wants to ensure that all First Nation Chiefs and Leaders who want further information on the consultation bill can be provided that information. Briefing sessions to view the draft or consultation bill have been underway, and many Chiefs and leaders have participated to date. If you were not available to attend the UBCIC session and are not available to participate in the session scheduled for next week’s FNS meeting, and are interested in a briefing, please contact the FNLC and we can support you to be briefed and request government make appropriate arrangements in your circumstances.
The FNLC will be doing public education on the UN Declaration and the bill and wants to ensure that all First Nation Chiefs and Leaders are supported to explain and advance the importance of the UN Declaration at the local and community level, with your partners, other governments, business and civil society organizations.
For Further Information:
Colin Braker, Communications Director, First Nations Summit (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Maureen Buchan, Senior Policy Advisor, BC Assembly of First Nations (email@example.com)
Andrea Glickman, Policy Director, Union of BC Indian Chiefs (firstname.lastname@example.org)