BC Announces Historic Bill to Legislate the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Lekwungen dancers perform in the BC legislature before the introduction of historic Bill 41 – the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Courtesy George Heyman/Facebook.

With the signing of Bill 41, BC will become the first province in Canada to legally implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“What this declaration does is now recognize that Indigenous Peoples have the inherent right to self-government and to make decisions and have power,” said Grand Chief Akile Ch’oh Ed John in a CBC news article.

The legislation of UNDRIP is something which Indigenous groups have long been calling for in BC and across the country. Since committing to the legislation in a February throne speech, the BC government has been working closely with the First Nations Leadership Council to draft the bill.

Bill 41 — the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act — provides a legally binding framework for the province to align its laws with the 46 articles contained within UNDRIP, which are meant to recognize the basic human rights of Indigenous Peoples as well as their rights to self-determination.

Several Indigenous leaders from across the province gathered at the BC Legislature on the morning of October 24 when the historic bill was announced.

“The provincial government has a long history of denying the very existence and rights of Indigenous peoples,” said ?aq‡smaknik pi¢ak pa‡kiy Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Summit political executive. “We are pleased that this changes today, and the Province of British Columbia is working with us in turning the page in our collective history and embarking on a new era and path for building a respectful and modern government-to-government relationship — a relationship built on recognition, respect, co-operation and partnership with a goal to improve the lives of our citizens and bring reconciliation to the forefront of society.”

“Today is a good day,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Without a doubt, this unifying bill represents an incredible step forward in Crown-Indigenous relations in the Province of British Columbia. We are incredibly proud of how far we’ve come together, and we eagerly anticipate next steps. This landmark bill is not only aspirational but includes tangible and practical tools for implementation.”