British Columbia

UN Indigenous rights bill approved unanimously in B.C.

British Columbia is the first jurisdiction in North America to formally implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

First Nations Leadership Council was concerned newly-introduced legislation had stalled at the committee stage

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, pictured here in 2018, was one of several Indigenous leaders who attended the tabling of the bill last month in the B.C. Legislature. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

B.C. has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to formally implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The bill was approved unanimously in the legislature on Tuesday. 

"Today, we have made history," the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation and the First Nations Leadership Council said in a joint statement. 

The bill mandates the provincial government to bring its policies and laws into harmony with the aims of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill 41 was developed by the provincial government together with the First Nations Leadership Council to uphold Indigenous rights and create stronger communities, said the statement. 

Any future changes needed to comply with the UN declaration will be done in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples, the joint statement added. 

Indigenous leaders across the province had urged the official Opposition to allow passage of the legislation for a new relationship between the province and First Nations.

Before the legislation was approved, the First Nations Leadership Council had expressed concerns about the bill being stalled in committee, noting it had been at that stage since Oct. 30. 

"Our province has been limited by the uncertainty of litigation," B.C. Green MLA Adam Olsen, who is a member of Tsartlip First Nation, said in a news release.

"And now, rather than conflict there is an opportunity of increased collaboration and of economic prosperity that is fairer for everyone," he added. 

The legislation is now enshrined in provincial law. 

With files from the Canadian Press