Vancouver task force on Indigenous rights releases report for city council

The Squamish Nation victory song rang out in Vancouver as chiefs, leaders from the community and representatives from city hall gathered to celebrate a report by a joint task force on how to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in B.C.’s largest city.

The task force was made up of city officials and members of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

“One hundred and fifty-odd years after confederation we are being given consideration as human beings of this land of this country of this world,” said Elder Larry Grant from the Musqueam Nation.

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations called it a historic day for First Nations across the country – and that there is an opportunity for other municipalities to embrace UNDRIP.

“It’s really important for all municipalities, especially in B.C., that has its own UNDRIP legislation to really embrace these types of plans and how they will align themselves with those principles,” said RoseAnne Archibald. “I was speaking to somebody earlier here who is a part of the plan-making and they are talking about going from where you are today, which is at the very beginning of the plan, to eventually talking about taxation sharing.

“So how do you begin to share that wealth that is being generated from the lands with the people who the land belongs to the original peoples.”

In October 2019, the province of B.C. officially recognized UNDRIP.

Squamish council chairperson and task force co-chair Khelsilem told the gathering the strategy came about because of a “genuine, mutual respect” between those involved, and a desire to create a meaningful pathway for reconciliation in the city.

The recommendations are sorted into themes: social, cultural and economic well-being; ending Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination; self-determination and inherent right of self-government; and rights and title of Indigenous Peoples.

Among the calls to action are prioritizing access to cultural sites for the nations’ members and developing a policy to assess industrial infrastructure development through the lens of Indigenous rights and environmental racism.

The report also recommends the Vancouver Police Department work with Indigenous Peoples to integrate into its operations the principles of the United Nations declaration and recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Vancouver city council unanimously adopted a motion in March 2021 to create an UNDRIP task force in partnership with the nations, which produced what officials say is the first co-developed strategy to implement the United Nations declaration between a municipality and Indigenous governments in Canada.

With files from the Canadian Press

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