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

Lightning blamed for multiple fire starts across Kootenays

Southeast Fire Centre says ground crews, air support responding to fires near Revelstoke, Nakusp

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

RDKB to spend $5,000 to review 2020 freshet response

The province is also kicking in $5,000 for the review of flood protection rollout and communications

FortisBC sees record-high summer electricity usage in Okanagan and Kootenays

‘As temperatures spike, so does the demand for electricity’ - FortisBC

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Wild’s Mathew Dumba makes anti-racism speech, kneels ahead of Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Matt Dumba, 26, took to center ice to speak on behalf of fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance

Most Read