Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen, wearing traditional Tsartlip clothing, speaks to the introduction of Indigenous rights law in the B.C. legislature, Oct. 24, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

B.C.’s first annual report on its embrace of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being presented in the legislature next week, while debate continues over the obligations it imposes on the province.

The report, a requirement under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act approved by all parties in the B.C. legislature in November, was released July 3 and covers the first four months of its existence. It emphasizes progress such as updating B.C.’s school curriculum to include more Indigenous culture and history, and changes to child welfare laws to keep Indigenous children with their families and communities.

Its release comes a day after the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear the latest appeal against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project. Work continues on that and B.C.’s other pipeline project, the Coastal Gaslink line to deliver natural gas for export from northeast gas fields to a terminal at Kitimat.

Supported by most Indigenous communities on the pipeline route, Coastal Gaslink sparked Canada-wide protests and rail blockades immediately after Premier John Horgan’s government became the first jurisdiction in Canada to commit to implement UNDRIP. While B.C. politicians insisted its call for “free, prior and informed consent” isn’t a veto over resource projects, protesters and student supporters responded by blockading the legislature as well.

The framework law passed in November commits the B.C. government to an “action plan” to implement the UNDRIP principles in B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser said the plan is still expected to be completed by the end of 2020, as the province holds a rare summer session after the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The B.C. Liberals ultimately supported the law, after questions about which of many UN commitments it enshrines. One is UNDRIP Article 39, which states: Indigenous people have the right to access to financial and technical assistance from states and through international cooperation, for enjoying the rights contained in this declaration.”

Fraser replied that UNDRIP “does not create a positive obligation on the part of the state, but there will be conversations about funding from the provincial government.”

Conversations so far have produced a share of B.C.’s gambling revenues and commitments to add provincial funds to the federal responsibility to build housing on reserves.

RELATED: B.C. first to endorse UN Indigenous rights in law

RELATED: B.C.’s pioneering law adds to conflict, confusion

RELATED: Indigenous rights law first job of 2020, Horgan says

Indigenous MLAs had their say as well before the framework bill passed. B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen said Indigenous consent is key to stopping energy projects like Trans Mountain and Coastal Gaslink. B.C. Liberal MLA Ellis Ross, a former Haisla Nation chief counsellor, argued that Indigenous consent already exists in Canadian case law.

“That’s why we have LNG,” Ross told the legislature. “That’s why we have peace in the woods.”

In a year-end interview, Olsen, Saanich North and the Islands MLA and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, said “consent” is more than consultation that has been required of federal and provincial governments.

“So while it might be a more stiff task to get consent, it is a more clear determination at the end of it,” Olsen said. “Consent is not a veto over resource development. No rights are absolute.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureIndigenous

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

Just Posted

Fire damages Harrop nursery

The cause of the blaze is under investigation

LETTER: Time to re-purpose airstrip

From reader John Bowden

Nelson Innovation Centre to host pitch competition

Deadline to apply for the first of three events is Sept. 24

School bus registration now open in SD8

Registration deadline is Sept. 4

BUSINESS BUZZ: COVID and cash, ATCO’s Weatherford heads Selkirk board, and more

Darren Davidson brings us the latest goings-on in the local business world

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Expected fall peak of COVID-19 in Canada could overwhelm health systems: Tam

National modelling projections released Friday show an expected peak in cases this fall

Most Read