Lekwungen dancers perform in the B.C. legislature before introduction of historic Indigenous rights legislation, Oct. 24, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. to be first to implement UN Indigenous rights declaration

No veto in B.C. legislation, minister Scott Fraser says

The B.C. government is about to become the first in North America to begin formal recognition of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

UNDRIP has become an international rallying cry for Indigenous people to leave behind colonial rule and achieve “free, prior and informed consent” for resource development and other activity in their traditional territories.

Overlapping territorial claims dominate B.C., which unlike the rest of Canada is not subject to historic treaties. And the federal government is responsible for reserves that were established across the country, including B.C.

“We’re leading in Canada, in North America and the Western Hemisphere,” B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser said in an interview with Black Press.

“It’s one of the key recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action dealing with the aftermath of the residential school system, recognizing in law the rights of Indigenous peoples,” Fraser said. “It’s been described as generational. Reconciliation doesn’t have an end-date. That’s not what it’s about. Human rights are indigenous rights too.”

Fraser is emphatic about the suggestion that UNDRIP’s key phrase, “free, prior and informed consent,” establishes a veto.

“There is no veto in the UN declaration and there is none contemplated in the legislation,” he said.

RELATED: If this isn’t an Indigenous veto, what is?

RELATED: Court grants Tsilhqot’in injunction against drilling

The province has already moved ahead with key aspects of UNDRIP, including changes to environmental assessment laws to incorporate Indigenous input, public school curriculum and changes to children and families laws that involve state intervention in child care.

The B.C. legislature is also debating a new law providing a share of B.C. Lottery Corp. gambling revenues to the more than 200 Indigenous communities in the province.

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson is skeptical about the NDP’s decision to pioneer the implementation of UNDRIP.

“The challenge for B.C. is we have 203 different first nations, many with overlapping claims to the landscape, and to aboriginal rights and title,” Wilkinson said in an interview. “And that’s a slow process of reconciliation that made great progress under the B.C. Liberals with (former minister) John Rustad leading the way. And now we see the NDP backing off to a kind of theoretical UN-driven approach, and it will be a real challenge to see if that will work in B.C.”

Wilkinson, a lawyer who has also worked as a medical doctor in northern B.C., noted that B.C. has already ventured into funding on-reserve housing projects, which are federal jurisdiction.

“It’s debatable within the laws of Canada, given that section 35 of the Charter deals with aboriginal rights, and that the federal government has a fiduciary duty for aboriginal peoples and what are known as Indian reserves,” Wilkinson said. “The province has a totally different jurisdiction, but we have an NDP government that’s very keen to solve the world’s problems all by itself.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo doctors asking for donations of masks and gloves during COVID-19 fight

Nanaimo Division of Family Practice co-ordinating efforts to collect supplies

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: COVID-19 symptoms must be taken seriously

Plausible pandemic scenarios could prove catastrophic for community, says letter writer

Nanaimo MLA part of historic near-empty legislative sitting that passed COVID-19 measures

A dozen MLAs alter Employment Standards Act, approve $5-billion spending package

B.C. Ferries passengers staying away, as asked, during COVID-19 pandemic

Ferry corporation says ridership down 70-80 per cent over the last week and a half

Food program available for Nanaimo youths during COVID-19 pandemic

Nanaimo Youth Services Association offering food initiative on Thursdays

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

Nanaimo couple caught aboard cruise ship with four dead and COVID-19 present

Four ‘older guests’ have died on Holland America’s Zaandam, cruise line confirms two COVID-19 cases

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Nanaimo hospital staff say lives depend on stopping spread of COVID-19

President of medical staff association, chief of staff at NRGH asking for community’s best efforts

RCMP, prime minister warn of text scam related to COVID-19 relief

Text message alerts about $,1375.50 deposits should be ignored or deleted, Nanaimo RCMP say

Home-schooling about to become the rule, not the exception, in Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Suspension of in-class instruction to take effect in Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district March 30

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Most Read