New guidance on legislation supports Indigenous rights

New guidance for the BC Government from the Declarations Act Secretariat provides best practices for working with Indigenous Peoples to develop provincial laws and policies that promote Indigenous peoples’ rights.

The Interim Approach to Implement the Requirements of Section 3 of the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (Interim Approach) is a world-leading project released by the new provincial Indigenous Secretariat.

“After 150 years of a colonial approach to law and politics, for the first time we have guidance for government on how to work cooperatively and consistently with indigenous peoples in the legislative process,” said Murray Rankin. Minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and Minister responsible for the Secretariat of the Declaration Act. “As we approach the third anniversary of the passage of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act, this is a very important step. It brings together what we have learned through legislative and policy initiatives since 2019 and will help the government move further towards a collaborative approach to reach our goal of reconciliation and implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples .”

The preliminary approach is the first result presented by the Secretariat of the Declarations Act formed earlier this year. The Secretariat is headed by Deputy Minister Jessica Wood/Si Sityaawks and was created to coordinate and support intergovernmental action to ensure provincial laws comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration ) as set forth in Section 3 of the BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

This new approach provides each ministry and government sector with clear, transparent processes for working with tribal peoples in developing provincial laws, policies and practices, as required by the Declaration Act.

The preliminary approach will help the government meet its legislative obligations under the Declaration Act, as the province has committed to addressing the development of policies and laws that may affect Indigenous Peoples in a manner that ensures Indigenous Peoples are partners involved in the process and the government has done so, have fulfilled their obligation to obtain their consent.

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This approach corresponds directly to the UN declaration, which emphasizes the right of indigenous peoples to influence the outcome of decision-making processes, and not just the right to be heard on matters affecting them.

While the preliminary approach was prepared by the Declarations Act Secretariat, it was developed in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous leadership to ensure that the rights of Indigenous peoples are affirmed through this work.

The Secretariat may periodically update the Preliminary Approach to include new information and advice from Indigenous Peoples and developments regarding the implementation of the Declaration Act.

Quotes:

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President, Union of BC Indian Chiefs –

“The Interim Process is another critical step forward, and we recognize the collective effort, particularly through the Declaration Secretariat, to collectively develop a transparent, system-wide process for aligning provincial laws with the UN Declaration. We cannot underestimate how difficult it is to bring about systemic change and we welcome this new process, which will establish clear roles for indigenous peoples in approximating laws and will facilitate the implementation of the Declaration of Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act.”

Regional Leader Terry Teegee, BC First Nations Assembly –

“We accept all steps forward as positive and incremental steps. In this sense, we welcome the implementation of the interim legislative process and a larger state-of-the-art mechanism that the Secretariat may represent. These achievements are tangible, but also bittersweet. Our peoples, all British Columbians, look to this government to advance reconciliation not just on paper, but in concrete and measurable steps.”

Cheryl Casimer, Political Leader, First Nations Summit –

“We are pleased to see that concrete direction is finally being introduced in the provincial government on how to work cooperatively with indigenous peoples in developing and reforming laws. This is a critical step in our collective work to decolonize crown processes and build new processes that respect legal pluralism and the fact that our nations have inherent jurisdiction and governance within our territories. It is also a critical step in creating consistency in the way provincial ministries work with our nations and organizations, and will point us all in the same direction towards our common goals of ensuring that provincial laws comply with the UN statement.”

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Chief Murphy Abraham, Lake Babine Nation –

“This guide will ensure that indigenous nations can participate in overdue legal and policy reforms. The Lake Babine Nation looks forward to providing recommendations and helping the province shed its colonial past in favor of a legal framework that is inclusive and respectful of Indigenous governance, rights and cultures.”

Colette Trudeau, CEO, Metis Nation British Columbia –

“Métis Nation British Columbia (MNBC) supports the development of a distinction-based approach to creating new legislation, which will include MNBC representing the interests of British Columbia’s nearly 100,000 self-identified Métis, to meet the requirements of Section 3 of the Law on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Through the new tentative approach, MNBC looks forward to increased consultation by British Columbia to provide clarity on the process of involving indigenous peoples in policy and legislation development. MNBC also congratulates the provincial government on the formation of the new Declaration Law Secretariat to provide guidance to public officials and support continued collaboration with indigenous partners while the process is fully reformed.”

Rosalie Yazzie, Acting Chair, BC First Nations Justice Council –

“On behalf of the BC First Nations Justice Council, we welcome the announcement of the Interim Approach as another step forward on the long road to reconciliation. For 150 years, legislation and policy-making has been reserved for indigenous peoples and has not played a significant role in shaping the laws and policies that affect us. In addition to the Province’s commitment to fully implement the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, we recognize the fundamental importance of the BC’s tentative approach to acknowledging legal pluralism and accelerating reconciliation in all areas of policy and law development. We congratulate the Indigenous-led Secretariat of the Declaration Act on this achievement.”

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Fast Facts:

  • The Declarations Act Secretariat, announced in Budget 2022, is an independent office providing guidance to all departments across government. It has a budget of $12.05 million over three years.
  • The Declaration Law Secretariat will help ministries to align their laws with the UN Declaration. For examples of this work, see the 2021-22 Annual Report on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act Statement (link below under Learn More).
  • The UN Declaration contains the following articles relating to the rights of indigenous people and the development of legislation:
    • Article 19: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned, through their own representative institutions, to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing any legislative or administrative measure that may affect them.
    • Article 38: States, in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the purposes of this Declaration.

Learn more:

To learn more about the Declarations Act and the Declarations Act Secretariat, visit:
https://declaration.gov.bc.ca

View the preliminary approach: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/5311E7CE28434979B5BAFAA0945E0ECE

View the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
www.un.org/development/desa/indigenouspeoples/wp-content/uploads/sites/19/2018/11/UNDRIP_E_web.pdf

Annual Report 2021-22 on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Chapter 3: Legal Requirements of the Declaration Act (page 6):
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/indigenous-people/new-relationship/united-nations-declaration-on-the-rights-of-indigenous-peoples/annual-reporting

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