BC Leads Canada on the Implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous

If passed, Bill 41 would pave the way for the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights in BC by developing a framework for a dialogue between the BC government and Indigenous governments based on good faith consultations, respectful negotiations and consent-based agreements — all of which concretely support the path toward reconciliation.

BC Leads Canada on the Implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On October 24, 2019, Bill 41: Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act 1 was tabled in the British Columbian legislature, making this province the nation’s leader on the implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”)2. Bill 41 consists of ten sections that would codify the human rights-based preambular language of the UNDRIP and its 46 Articles. The UNDRIP is a remarkable international instrument that enshrines a universal human rights framework aimed at protecting the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples to be free from discrimination — to self-determination and self-government — to practice and preserve their language and culture — and to develop and improve political, social and economic systems within their communities.

Importantly, the UNDRIP imposes a duty on the state to obtain Indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent before making decisions that may impact their rights and before approving resource projects that may affect their territorial rights and interests. The UNDRIP also imposes an obligation on the state to redress and mitigate any adverse impacts on the infringement of Indigenous rights, including the obligation to provide restitution and compensation for lands, territories and resources that were wrongly confiscated, taken, damaged and occupied without obtaining Indigenous peoples’ free, prior, and informed consent.

The UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007 and Canada was among the four nation states with significant colonial histories that opposed its adoption. Canada was concerned about the autonomy afforded to Indigenous peoples under the declaration and how that may conflict with Canadian laws and undermine state sovereignty, particularly in relation to land and resource disputes. However, in 2010, Canada issued a Statement of Support endorsing the principles of the declaration. Then, in May of 2016, Canada declared its full support without qualification for the UNDRIP.3There are still significant concerns with Canada’s implementation of the UNDRIP particularly in relation to pipeline projects that continue full speed ahead without adequate consultation and the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.

Bill 41 affirms the application of the UNDRIP to laws in BC, creates an action plan to contribute to the UNDRIP’s implementation and supports the building of relationships with Indigenous governing bodies. The action plan creates accountability with the government through the requirement of an annual report that must be “prepared in consultation and cooperation with the Indigenous [p]eoples in British Columbia.”4 If passed, Bill 41 would pave the way for the recognition of Indigenous peoples’ rights in BC by developing a framework for a dialogue between the BC government and Indigenous governments based on good faith consultations, respectful negotiations and consent-based agreements — all of which concretely support the path toward reconciliation. Hopefully, the rest of Canada will follow in BC’s footsteps by committing to the full implementation of the UNDRIP as merely endorsing the principles falls significantly short of the action that is needed.


  1. Bill 41, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, 4th Sess, 41st Leg, B.C., 2019 |
  2. UN General Assembly, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, A/RES/61/295 (UNDRIP) |
  3. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
  4. Ibid, s. 5(2)

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