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

BC Liberal Party candidate for the North Coast Roy Jones Jr. will hold virtual face-to-face meetings for North Coast communities on Oct. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
BC Liberal Candidate Roy Jones Jr, will meet constituents virtually

Face to face conversations will be held on Oct. 18 for North Coast communities

The rockslide occurred just east of Firvale before Snowshoe Creek (photo submitted)
Heavy rain causes mud, debris on Highway 20

Environment Canada had issued a rainfall warning on Thursday morning

Phillip Tallio with his supporters Marie Spetch and Robyn Batryn. (File photo)
Appeals trial begins for Phillip Tallio, convicted of killing toddler in 1983

Tallio was 17 at the time of the 22-month-old toddler’s death

Subsea fibre optics running from Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal Communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
Subsea fibre optics running from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and and then south to Vancouver will improve high-speed internet connection options for Coastal communities, CityWest said on Oct. 13. (Black Press Media)
CityWest to refresh subsea fibre optics project

Fibre optics project to run cable from north of Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii then south to Vancouver

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read