New legislation will align treaty negotiations with international standards for Indigenous rights recognition

New legislation will align treaty negotiations with international standards for Indigenous rights recognition

On October 24, the government of British Columbia introduced Bill-41 to the Legislative Assembly – historic legislation to provincially implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UN Declaration). The Treaty Commission supports this bill and is optimistic that it will have positive impacts for treaty negotiations and implementation in BC. 

The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act was developed with the Leadership Council, as directed by Indigenous leaders in BC. It sets out a process to ensure the province's laws are consistent with the rights defined in the UN Declaration and an action plan to achieve the objectives of the UN Declaration, with annual reporting on progress. British Columbia is the first Canadian province to introduce a bill implementing the UN Declaration.

Grand Chief Ed John, First Nation Summit. Photo: BC Gov Flickr

The declaration reflects internationally recognized standards for Indigenous human rights. Many of these rights relate to self-determination and self-government, and rights of Indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making that affect their governments, lands, territories, waters, culture and autonomy. 

“It is with optimism that this important bill includes a provision, in section 7, for the provincial government to enter into agreements with Indigenous governments for joint decision-making and consent,” said Chief Commissioner Celeste Haldane. “Joint decision-making is an essential element of treaties, and government mandates for negotiations must be consistent with the UN Declaration.” 

Cheryl Casimer, First Nation Summit. Photo: BC Gov Flickr

In BC, modern treaties are the best mechanism to implement the UN Declaration, and in particular the right to free, prior and informed consent. A legal opinion published last year by the Treaty Commission determines that the BC treaty negotiations process facilitates nation-to-nation negotiations culminating in constitutionally protected agreements for shared sovereignty and reconciliation. Treaty tables are already integrating the UN Declaration into negotiations through innovative transition agreements that are accelerating negotiations through a rights recognition approach. Bill-41 recognizes the legal and constitutional nature of Indigenous title, rights, laws and legal systems, requiring negotiations for their protection and implementation. 

“Bill-41 not only acknowledges the legal and constitutional obligation the government has to uphold the rights of Indigenous Peoples, but it provides a path to rights recognition that is co-developed with First Nations, as partners,” Chief Commissioner Haldane added. “The Treaty Commission will continue to support the implementation of the UN Declaration through fairly negotiated and honourably implemented treaties in BC.” 


Photo: BC Gov Flickr


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