UNDRIP bill becomes law in B.C. after it fails federally

Todd Lamirande
Nation to Nation
British Columbia became the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into law.

The province’s Lieutenant Governor Janet Austin gave the bill royal assent in a ceremony Thursday morning in Victoria.

Indigenous leaders were ecstatic about the event.

Chief Don Tom, vice-president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), told Nation to Nation that it will benefit First Nations in a host of ways, including the way business is done in the province.

“For the province to implement this bill across all ministries, it will definitely change, I think, the approach from resource industry,” he said.

The provincial legislation succeeded where it could not at the federal level.

Former NDP MP Romeo Saganash’s private members bill, C-262, made its way to the Senate before dying on the order paper this past June.

Scott Fraser, the minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation in B.C. put down his province’s success to having wide support for UNDRIP in the legislature.

He is most proud of the way the legislation was developed.

“(It) was done in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, right from the very beginning,” said Fraser. “And that’s, I think, a metaphor for our relationship moving forward.”

Fraser dismissed concerns the new law would give First Nations a veto over resource development, saying there’s nothing in the UN declaration about a veto and that only one party, the federal Conservative Party, has voiced this kind of worry.

Also on Nation to Nation was child protection lawyer Judith Rae.

A piece of legislation that did pass Parliament in Ottawa is bill C-92.

It will reform the way child welfare is delivered to Indigenous peoples and is set to be implemented on Jan. 1.

The federal government hasn’t released any details on how that will be done.

In fact some stakeholders and people who work in child welfare have never heard of C-92 and its January implementation date.

Last week, Manitoba’s Child and Family Services Minister Heather Stefanson slammed the federal government for little consultation on how the new legislation is to be rolled out.

“It is a real problem,” said Rae.  “I certainly would have liked to see more planning and co-ordination of the implementation of this law.”

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