BC becomes the first province to enshrine human rights of Indigenous peoples in law

Nov 27 2019, 12:15 pm

British Columbia is officially the first province in Canada to recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration).

This came after Bill 41 — the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act — was passed unanimously on November 26.

According to the UN, the Declaration is the “most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of Indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world, and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of Indigenous peoples.”

The province developed the Bill 41 in collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council, which acted on the direction of Indigenous leaders in BC.

“It is time we recognize and safeguard Indigenous peoples’ human rights, so that we may finally move away from conflict, drawn-out court cases and uncertainty, and move forward with collaboration and respect,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a joint statement with BC’s First Nations Chiefs.

“Ensuring that Indigenous peoples are part of the policy-making and decision-making processes that affect them, their families and their territories is how we will create more certainty and opportunity for Indigenous peoples, B.C. businesses, communities and families everywhere.”

Elements of Bill 41 include the following:

  • a requirement to develop an action plan to meet the objectives of the UN Declaration, in collaboration with Indigenous peoples;
  • annual public reporting to monitor progress;
  • discretion for new decision-making agreements between the province and Indigenous governments where decisions directly affect Indigenous peoples and mechanisms exist in applicable legislation – with clear processes, administrative fairness and transparency; and
  • recognition for additional forms of Indigenous governments in agreement-making, such as multiple Nations working together as a collective, or hereditary governments – as determined and recognized by the citizens of the Nation.