How the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be implemented in BC law, policy and practices

How the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can be implemented in BC law, policy and practices — new report

(Coast Salish Territories/ Vancouver) A report released today outlines for the first time what implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples could and should look like in BC law, policy and practices; the BC government has explicitly committed to adopt and implement the UN Declaration. 

The report, True, Lasting Reconciliation: Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in British Columbia Law, Policy and Practices was released by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–BC Office (CCPA-BC.) It challenges politicians, government officials and the public to take the next steps to give the UN Declaration meaning on the ground in constructive, impactful and practical ways. 

“There is significant unfinished business in order to address the legacy of colonization of Indigenous peoples in Canada, and significant changes to legal and policy frameworks are needed to confront this legacy,” says Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC.  “We prepared this report to make it clear how to do so, taking the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation, as identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.” 

The report outlines current efforts to implement the UN Declaration in British Columbia and makes recommendations for going forward. 

“I think many people in BC, both political leaders and members of the general public, will find this report helpful,” says Seth Klein, outgoing Director of the CCPA-BC. 

“It is widely understood that implementing the UN Declaration is fundamental to adopting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. Many British Columbians want to honour those calls, but we lack clarity about what implementing the UN Declaration concretely looks like in our province. This report provides some tangible direction,” he added. 

The report explains that implementation of the UN Declaration is a central political and public policy issue around the world and extensive dialogue is needed about how it can be put into action.   

“Implementation of the UN Declaration will involve a diverse and dynamic set of legislative and policy shifts by government,” notes Wilson. “It supports action by Indigenous Nations to exercise self-determination and to rebuild and revitalize their own governments, structures, legal systems and jurisdiction over their territorial lands and resources including reforming existing land policies for treaty and rights-based, consent-based, agreement-making. 

“Fundamental to the UN Declaration is an understanding that government must move from a ‘duty to consult’ to a genuine process of obtaining free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Nations in all matters pertaining to their inherent Title and Rights and self determination,” she added. 

The report outlines foundational principles for implementing the UN Declaration, and makes a number of wide-ranging recommendations that build upon the Commitment Document between the BC government and the First Nations Leadership Council (which comprises the BC Assembly of First Nations, the First Nations Summit and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs). 

The recommendations include:

  • A core element of reconciliation is that the UN Declaration should be embedded in BC law, by passage of framework legislation that is modelled on and builds upon the federal Bill C-262 (introduced by MP Romeo Saganash). Establishment of the BC law must be co-developed and co-drafted with Indigenous organizations. Among other things, it should oblige the BC government to adopt an implementation Action Plan; to systematically review all BC laws, policies and practices to ensure compliance with the UN Declaration; and to include a mechanism for ongoing independent oversight and accountability to ensure implementation of the Action Plan.
  • Implementation of the UN Declaration requires a focus on Indigenous self-determination, meaning that implementation will look different in different places. Efforts of governments or other actors cannot prescribe, define or determine Indigenous peoples’ own priorities. The government must be prepared to appropriately resource Indigenous peoples in their self-determining initiatives.
  • Tangible action, including advancing new models of consent-based agreements that reflect the minimum standards in the UN Declaration, is crucial in moving this work forward. A concrete example is the June 27, 2018 Letter of Understanding between the BC government and the ‘Namgis, Mamalilikulla and Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations regarding finfish aquaculture farms in the Broughton area. The letter specifically speaks of the application of the UN Declaration and utilization of processes of consent-based decision-making.
  • The government should undertake public education and outreach to raise awareness of the UN Declaration in BC within the public service, the school system and for the general public. 

The UBCIC and CCPA acknowledge funding for this project from the Law Foundation of British Columbia. 

To arrange an interview with Chief Judy Wilson, please contact Ellena Neel, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, (778) 866-0548, [email protected]

UBCIC-CCPA full report

UBCIC-CCPA stand alone executive summary

Appendix A- UN Declaration