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

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

Just Posted

On the job hunt with Nelson’s Make A Change Canada

The employment charity is organizing next week’s Kootenay Patricks, Montreal Canadiens game

FedEx distribution centre coming to Castlegar

Development permit for ground facility before council next week.

Heart, minds, and 100 years of the Nelson library

Past and future collide this year at the Nelson library, and it all kicks off this weekend

Crows, pirates and Segways: L.V. Rogers students make projects out of passions

The Grade 12 students presented their capstone projects Wednesday

Kootenay teams heading for curling provincials

Team Buchy and Team Nichols won the senior playdowns.

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Most Read