By Spencer Hall

Last week, John Rustad, leader of the BC Conservatives called on the Province to repeal the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples otherwise known as UNDRIP. 

BC was the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt the act in November 2019. The act later received royal assent at the federal level in June 2021.

The act itself recognizes the basic human rights of Indigenous people and provides a legal framework to advance reconciliation. It also provides recognition of Indigenous people’s rights when it comes to self-governance, language, and land.

In a press release, Rustad said the declaration was created for conditions in other countries ” but not Canada. This, however, didn’t seem to be an issue when he voted in favor of adopting the legislation back in 2019.

Rustad claims the NDP amendments to BC’s Land Act stemming from UNDRIP are an assault on the rights of private property owners and will provide First Nations a “veto” when it comes to Crown Land decisions.

But in reality, the amendments to the Land Act aim to recognize and implement Indigenous people’s right to self-governance on unceded land when it comes to land and resource development in their territories.

Amendments won’t instantly change the Province’s existing land tenure system, and any agreements made between the Province and First Nations will then require a public consultation process.

While everyone in BC theoretically has the same rights, it’s important to keep in mind that Indigenous people in Canada have historically been mistreated and haven’t had the same opportunities afforded to white Canadians. UNDRIP is not about giving a group of people special treatment, but instead seeks to recognize the rights Indigenous people have that are protected by the Canadian Constitution. Rights are not a finite resource and recognition of the rights of others does not mean fewer rights for other parties. The legislation provides an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together and find a way forward and that is what is at the heart of true reconciliation.