Terry Teegee: Embracing reconciliation: The path to consent-based decision making and the proposed Land Act amendments

Topic(s): Economic Development, Justice, Reconciliation

The critical movement toward reconciliation is not for the faint-hearted.

Since passing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act in 2019, the B.C. provincial government has been collaboratively working toward the requirement to bring all laws into alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Amending the provincial Lands Act is part of this public, transparent and incremental process.

Some recent commentaries regarding the UN declaration implementation and proposed amendments to the provincial Lands Act reflect a need for more understanding of reconciliation and acceptance of the authority and rights of First Nations that have been repeatedly recognized in the evolving Canadian legal landscape. Acceptance of change is a fundamental challenge of reconciliation. Governments, corporations, companies and citizens alike must embrace this change with the understanding that reconciliation is not an easy path but a necessary one.

Reconciliation isn’t just about land acknowledgements and rhetoric about partnerships, it’s about the fundamental understanding that finds First Nations as significant decision-makers in their territories and respecting that almost all of B.C. is, in fact, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the proper title and rights holders — First Nations.

Embracing change is an ongoing commitment that is the key to growth, resilience, and innovation. It is a skill that requires open-mindedness, flexibility, and a willingness to adapt to new circumstances. By embracing change, we empower ourselves to overcome challenges, seize new opportunities, and shape our future for the better.

Many Canadians have accepted the essential and urgent need to transform their relationships with First Nations through truth and reconciliation, acknowledging the necessity for change. The proposed amendments to the Land Act are rooted in humility, recognizing the requirement to address the disregard for First Nations’ rights by the current colonial and dated laws.

The Lands Act amendments proposal falls into alignment with legal trends spanning over 25 years, which have recognized First Nations’ inherent authority and rights and the requirement for consent in decision-making processes. Fostering and guiding the negotiation of decision-making agreements between B.C. and First Nations regarding land and resource development in their territories advances the principles of reconciliation.

The proposed amendments aim to respect First Nations’ voices and decision-making authority and create a transparent process. The public will be involved and contribute to a joint, consensual management effort that will benefit all British Columbians.

The path to consent-based decision-making signifies an essential step toward greater certainty, shared prosperity, and a more just relationship between constitutional partners. It is a journey of reconciliation that demands understanding, acceptance of change, and cooperation for the betterment of all.