BC becomes Canada’s first province to implement Indigenous rights outlined by UN

Oct 25 2019, 11:35 am

The Government of BC has tabled historic legislation that it says “creates a path forward to recognize and uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples in BC.”

On October 24, the province introduced the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act that, if passed, will make BC the first province to internationally recognize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) as provincial law.

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.”

In a statement, Premier John Horgan said the “legislation is a crucial step towards true and lasting reconciliation.”

“With this new law, Indigenous peoples will be part of the decisions that affect them, their families and their territories. Together with Indigenous peoples, we’re going to build a better future with good jobs and opportunities for people, strong environmental protections and healthy communities that include everyone.”

The province notes that as laws are built over time, they will be aligned with the Declaration. Elements of the bill include:

  • 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.

“To support self-determination and self-government, the act will enable the province to recognize other forms of Indigenous governments in addition to federal Indian Act bands, treaty Nations and incorporated bodies and societies,” said the province in a release.

“This also provides more clarity for businesses and communities about who to engage when working with Indigenous partners.”