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The Indigenous Bar Association Applauds the Efforts of First Nations and Government of British Columbia To Make History as The First Jurisdiction to Adopt Undrip As A Framework for Reconciliation

The Indigenous Bar Association Applauds the Efforts of First Nations and Government of British Columbia To Make History as The First Jurisdiction to Adopt Undrip As A Framework for Reconciliation

OTTAWA, ON – The Indigenous Bar Association applauds the tabling of the co-developed Bill 41, Declaration  of  the  Rights  of  Indigenous  Peoples  Act,  which  will  make  British  Columbia  the  first provincial jurisdiction in Canada to establish the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) as a “foundation and coherent path for Crown-Indigenous relations and reconciliation.” This draft legislation is a partial fulfillment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action 43, calling upon all levels of government in Canada to adopt and implement the Declaration as the framework for reconciliation.

With this initial provincial example, the IBA also calls on the rest of Canada to adopt and implement UNDRIP within its legal frameworks to secure the fundamental economic, social and political rights of all Indigenous Peoples. While the federal government formally endorsed UNDRIP in 2010, and further did so without reservation in 2016, Indigenous Peoples in Canada have not adequately benefitted from their collective and individual rights as articulated in UNDRIP. Earlier this year, Canada saw the demise of Bill 262 in the Senate of Canada, despite wide support for its adoption from the Senate and the House of Commons. At present, UNDRIP implementation in Canada has not been adequately set out in clear legislation.

British Columbia’s Bill 41 will make it the first jurisdiction to explicitly bring its laws into conformity with the 46 principles in the Declaration. The Bill sets out the requirement of a collaborative action plan over time, thus acknowledging that this important work will take time, and accountability measures on progress will be required.

UNDRIP compiles and articulates the existing rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world, and was adopted in 2007 by the United Nations General Assembly after years of tireless advocacy by Indigenous rights advocates at the global stage, including members of the IBA. UNDRIP is based upon the foundational principle that all Indigenous Peoples have the right of self-determination and provides for the minimum standards for UN member States to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

As articulated by one of the IBA’s active members, Professor Brenda Gunn, the failure to pass Bill 262 at the federal level, and the unfinished business of implementing UNDRIP’s principles within Canada’s legal framework will result in the proliferation of “poverty, suicide, murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, lower educational attainment, pollution of traditional lands [and] lower health outcomes.” It is for this reason that the Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission underscored the importance of harmonizing Canada’s federal and provincial laws with UNDRIP.

By legislating UNDRIP into their provincial legal framework, law makers in British Columbia are taking the long-awaited leap forward for meaningful reconciliation. Accordingly, it is incumbent upon the federal government and Canada’s other provinces and territories to follow BC’s example.

We urge the BC Legislature to pass Bill 41 into law, and to press forward on action planning in cooperation and collaboration with the Indigenous peoples of British Columbia. Indigenous lawyers have called for these measures for some time, and we celebrate and applaud the drafting and development of this legislation by the BC Government, working with Indigenous members of the British Columbia Law Society, and our organization, to repudiate colonialism, and to support economic and social stability and justice.

The Indigenous Bar Association is a national non-profit association comprised of Indigenous lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students. We are mandated to promote the advancement of legal and social justice for Indigenous peoples in Canada and the reform of laws and policies affecting Indigenous peoples. For more information please visit www.indigenousbar.ca.

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