British Columbia

'We are moving forward together': Premier urges feds to follow B.C.'s lead in enshrining UNDRIP

Bill 41 passed unanimously in the B.C. Legislature one week ago, mandating that policies and laws be brought into harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

John Horgan is 1st sitting premier to address opening day of Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly

B.C. Premier John Horgan is presented with a blanket during a ceremony at the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he counts the passing of legislation to enshrine the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into provincial law as one of the proudest moments of his life.

Horgan was addressing the opening day of the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa, the first time a sitting premier has been invited to do so.

"We are moving forward together," said Horgan to applause and drum beats.

Bill 41 passed unanimously in the B.C. Legislature one week ago. It mandates the provincial government bring its policies and laws into harmony with the aims of UNDRIP. 

Horgan said the notion of "free, prior and informed consent" in industrial development decisions is key in enacting UNDRIP.

"Let's sit down with the title holders whose land we want to conduct economic activity on and create partnerships as a way forward. That works," he said. "Without UNDRIP, litigation is the way forward for investment. We've seen that with the Trans Mountain pipeline: court case after court case after court case." 

Horgan said the $40 billion deal with LNG Canada is an example of how recognizing Indigenous rights and title and addressing environmental assessment up front works for the good of all parties. 

"Working with Indigenous people, working with investment, we were able to land the largest private sector investment in Canadian history," he said. 

Asked about his advice to the federal government on implementing UNDRIP, Horgan said if his minority government in B.C. can find consensus, so too can the minority government in Ottawa.

"We took bold action to make progress for investment, for human rights and for the prosperity of British Columbians," he said. "So I encouraged the prime minister to take that leap of faith and to call on [Conservative Party Leader Andrew] Scheer and the skeptics and say what's your solution? How would you make it better?"