The government of British Columbia has today introduced legislation to recognize and uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples in the province.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, if passed, will make British Columbia the first province to bring the internationally recognized standards of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into provincial law.
As laws are modified or built, they will be aligned with the UN Declaration. Additional 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.
“With this new law, Indigenous peoples will be part of the decisions that affect them, their families and their territories,” said Premier John Horgan.
“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 Act was developed in collaboration with the First Nations Leadership Council at the direction of First Nations. The legislation creates a framework for reconciliation in B.C., in keeping with the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“First Nations across B.C., Canada and the world are watching the introduction of this historic legislation,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee, BC Assembly of First Nations.
“…we have been waiting 12 long years for this. Businesses and investors will benefit from this as it creates certainty and predictability for projects in this province – British Columbians will benefit from job creation and First Nations will benefit by having a seat at the table.”
Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Summit political executive, said “The provincial government has a long history of denying the very existence and rights of Indigenous peoples. We are pleased that this changes today.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said, “Without a doubt, this unifying bill represents an incredible step forward in Crown-Indigenous relations in the Province of British Columbia.”
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. This also provides more clarity for businesses and communities about who to engage when working with Indigenous partners.
In 2017, every cabinet minister in the provincial government was tasked with a mandate to implement the UN Declaration and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. A commitment to adopting the UN Declaration in B.C. is a component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the BC Green Party caucus.