Declaration Act passes unanimously, a crucial step forward for reconciliation efforts

November 27, 2019

VICTORIA, B.C. – The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed unanimously today and marks a historic moment for British Columbia. 

“Passing the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act today is a significant milestone on our path to reconciliation,” said B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen for Saanich-North and the Islands and a member of Tsartlip First Nation. “This act represents a foundational change in approach to how government interacts with Indigenous people in the future, and I look forward to the work ahead.

“Generations of Indigenous people in Canada have fought to reverse the discriminatory laws and actions of successive governments. Today, for the first time in our province, we are using the powers of the Assembly to take a step towards reconciliation. I raise my hands to all who have come before and laid the foundation for this Act. 

“The legislation does not immediately solve all conflict in our province, but it is my sincere belief and the belief of the B.C. Green Caucus that it puts British Columbia on a path of greater certainty. Our province has been limited by the uncertainty of litigation, and now, rather than conflict there is an opportunity of increased collaboration and of economic prosperity that is fairer for everyone.”  

Bill 41 acknowledges the basic human rights that generations of Indigenous people have fought to have recognized and that have existed in Canada’s constitution for decades. This bill affirms these existing rights and is a concrete step to undo the colonial legacy imposed on Indigenous people for generations. Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into legislation was a key recommendation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 

“Social justice and respect of diversity are more than core principles for the B.C. Greens, they are values that every British Columbian can embrace. And, today, MLAs stood united in support of those core values,” said B.C. Green Party Leader Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA from Oak Bay- Gordon Head. “The passage of this bill was a foundational piece of the Confidence and Supply Agreement that enables us to support this NDP minority government.”

British Columbia is the first jurisdiction in North America to pass legislation that implements the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law. BC is home to the second largest population of First Nations in Canada, according to Stats Canada.

“In my riding, I regularly see firsthand how a discriminatory and dysfunctional approach from governments over the last hundred years has led to sustained intergenerational trauma that continues today and will take many years of hard work to overcome,” said MLA Sonia Furstenau for Cowichan Valley. “The passage of this bill is a step forward that leaves me optimistic for the future - one that doesn’t ignore basic human rights but treats all people with respect and aims for collaboration rather than conflict.”

A commitment to adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C. is a component of the Confidence and Supply Agreement between the B.C. Green Caucus and the BC NDP government. In 2017, every Cabinet minister in the provincial government was tasked with a mandate to implement the UN Declaration and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

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