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

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

Highway 1 eastbound has one lane closed as crews worked to clear up an accident earlier this afternoon.
Accident shuts down one lane eastbound on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Major congestion between Riverside Road and Sumas exit

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Scales of Justice
Court awards woman $167K after vehicle was struck by White Rock taxi in 2016

Plaintiff’s knee injuries and resulting chronic pain disability are genuine, judge rules

Mike Bismeyer of Abbotsford is the recipient of the national Savita Shah Award for his work promoting kindness and anti-bullying initiatives.
Abbotsford man who was bullied as a teen receives national kindness award

Mike Bismeyer is one of two Canadians to earn Savita Shah Award

RCMP were on scene under the Menzies Street bridge in Chilliwack on Thursday, March 4, 2021 where a body was found. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
UPDATE: Body found under Menzies bridge in Chilliwack that of man in 20s

Death not considered suspicious, said Chilliwack RCMP

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read