Terry Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Cheryl Casimer of the B.C. First Nations Summit, speak on the bill to endorse UN Indigenous rights, B.C. legislature, Oct. 24, 2019. (Hansard TV)

B.C. first to endorse UN Indigenous rights legislation

John Horgan’s NDP pledge to adapt B.C. laws to declaration

After sometimes acrimonious debate, the B.C. legislature has unanimously endorsed North America’s first bill to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

B.C.’s framework legislation was examined at length Tuesday, before a vote that had support of the NDP, B.C. Liberals and B.C. Greens. The UN doctrine of “free, prior and informed consent” from Indigenous inhabitants for land development has been much discussed, with critics noting that the many overlapping territorial claims in B.C. create investment uncertainty.

RELATED: B.C. builds on reconciliation plan with summit

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The province has signed hundreds of agreements to share forest, mining and other resources on Crown land, as modern treaty talks drag on for most of the more than 200 identified Indigenous groups in B.C.

Adopting UNDRIP was a term agreed to by the B.C. NDP and Green parties in their minority government support deal in 2017.

In debate on the historic bill, B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen said Indigenous consent is a key to stopping energy projects like the Trans Mountain oil pipeline and Coastal Gaslink line for gas exports.

Skeena B.C. Liberal MLA Ellis Ross argued that Indigenous consent already exists in case law.

“That’s why we have LNG,” said Ross, a former chief councillor of the Haisla Nation. “That’s why we have peace in the woods.”


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