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.

Just Posted

Revelstoke resident wants to talk food security and the Columbia River Treaty

There is a public meeting tonight on the topic at the community centre

City receives annual grant in lieu of property taxes from province

Revelstoke is one of 54 communities to get the grant

Drive with caution: Fog in Revelstoke area

Roads, weather and avalanche conditions for Nov. 18

Environment Canada issues snowfall warning for Trans Canada Highway

Expect 20-30 cm from Eagle Pass to Rogers Pass

Teen with cancer whose viral video urged Canadians to vote has died, uncle tweets

Maddison Yetman had been looking forward to voting in her first federal election since junior high school

Protest planned against Kelowna RCMP’s high unfounded sexual assault numbers

Kelowna RCMP deemed almost 40 per cent of sexual assault reports as “unfounded” in 2018

Missing Okanagan teens believed to be in Armstrong

Young couple was reported missing last week

B.C. woman ordered to return dog to ex-boyfriend for $2,000

After the two broke up, documents state, they agree to share custody of the dog, named Harlen

Abbotsford police chief mulls more enforcement of homeless lawbreakers

‘When all else has failed we have to hold people accountable,’ Police Chief Mike Serr tells council

Summerland Festival of Lights will have entertainment three stages

Organizers anticipate 12,000 to 14,000 people to attend event to launch festive season

Government needs to step up to address $10M RCMP budget deficit: Morrison

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison says governments need to ensure rural communities are protected

Okanagan gymnasts light the stage with original production

The Light Keeper fuses drama, dance, music, circus arts, gymnastics and more

Striking Vancouver hotel workers, employer reach ‘tentative’ agreement

Employees of the Rosewood Hotel Georgia have been out at picket lines since talks broke off on Sept. 21

Most Read