COLUMN: Making history at the beginning of reconciliation

From Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall

Premier John Horgan announces Indigenous rights will be recognized in B.C. with the introduction of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press Premier John Horgan announces Indigenous rights will be recognized in B.C. with the introduction of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press photo)

By Michelle Mungall, MLA

As I sit down to write this column, Canadians have woken up to a new Liberal minority government, the leaves are falling in the Kootenays and many people at the B.C. Legislature are planning for a historic day on Oct. 24.

This is the day when our government introduces a bill that implements the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law. It will be filled with ceremony and four indigenous leaders, including Chief Ed John who worked on the declaration at the U.N., will address the Legislative Assembly once Bill 41 is introduced by Minister Scott Fraser.

This type of legislation is rare, and if passed will be the first time it is passed anywhere in the world. New Democrat MP Romeo Saganash (who will also be in attendance) introduced UNDRIP legislation in Ottawa and the House of Commons passed it, but it died in the unelected Senate because of the actions of Conservative senators. So here we are in British Columbia, taking a global lead on addressing the impact colonization has had and continues to have on Indigenous peoples. This legislation is critical in that process, but it isn’t an end. It is a beginning.

Governments have a major role to play in the societal journey of reconciliation through policies on natural resource development, child and youth care, education, healthcare, social services, environmental regulation, energy development, transportation … you see where I am going.

Everything that government does touches people’s lives and it has touched Indigenous people’s lives in very negative ways for hundreds of years in what is now BC. This is changing, but more needs to be done for reconciliation. For one thing, we need a clear guide in this long-term process, and that guide exists. It is UNDRIP. But it remains theoretical if not in law. That is why legislation is necessary. It holds government to action and to account.

This bill commits British Columbia to ensure that its laws are consistent with UNDRIP, and to develop an action plan to do so. Working with First Nations, we will report on the action plan’s achievements annually so that there is transparency with its progress and clear lines of accountability. This is not a law to sit on some shelf.

The bill also gives the provincial government the ability to enter into shared decision-making processes with Indigenous governing bodies. These shared decisions could be on environmental protection and delivery of social services for example. Along with sharing the decisions, we would share the responsibilities and accountability — all important aspects of the right Indigenous peoples have to self-determination.

Because all of this is new and untested elsewhere, it is not surprising that there is a lot of excitement, but there is also some nervousness about how this will all work out in day to day life. Yet being nervous isn’t a reason to abandon this legislation. Reconciliation is an absolutely necessary journey we must all take.

It won’t be easy, and we don’t have all the answers up front. We will figure out most of this journey as we go along. Thankfully, we have a guide, and by putting it into law we are starting a remarkable and positive legacy for future generations.

Michelle Mungall is the MLA for Nelson-Creston

Just Posted

Kootenay Lake ferry labour dispute ends with ratified agreement

The deal was approved by 83 per cent of members

Selkirk music students turn up the semester-end volume

Five different ensemble student bands will take the stage on Dec. 12

CP Holiday Train returning to Nelson next week

Train will stop at Lakeside Park railway crossing on Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m.

Nelson police searching for missing woman

Heather Gunderson hasn’t been seen since Sunday

New system to keep Nakusp-area snowmobilers, caribou from meeting

GPS tracking keeps caribou safe while opening up the backcountry for sledding

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

Trustees ask for more help after tearful meeting on B.C. school’s ‘toxic’ stench

Enforcement has ‘no teeth,’ school trustee says, while kids become sick

One of B.C’s last surviving strip clubs baring all again for Christmas charity

25th annual event is Sunday and raises money for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.

University of Victoria researchers develop industry-changing ‘hyper-glue’

‘Cross-linking’ technology already playing a role in performance body armour

Most Read