B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to Indigenous leadership conference in Vancouver, Nov. 5, 2019. (B.C. government)

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks to Indigenous leadership conference in Vancouver, Nov. 5, 2019. (B.C. government)

B.C.’s pioneering Indigenous rights law adds to confusion, conflict, study finds

Pipeline, rail blockades spread across Canada after UNDRIP vow

Premier John Horgan’s effort to pioneer the United Nations’ Indigenous rights declaration in B.C. law fuelled blockades aimed at stopping his government’s signature natural gas project, a new study concludes.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should heed the results of B.C. legislation adopting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People before he fulfils his promise to follow suit on a national level, Indigenous rights specialist Tom Flanagan concludes in a paper for the Fraser Institute published Tuesday.

When B.C. passed its framework law in November 2019, Horgan and his Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser repeatedly said it does not constitute a veto, despite its adoption of the UNDRIP principle of “free, prior and informed consent” by Indigenous people over resource development in their traditional territories.

Flanagan notes that B.C.’s Bill 41 promises to both adopt the principles of UNDRIP and exempt B.C. laws from it, with “ambiguous language” that Indigenous advocates have interpreted as they see fit.

“The adoption of Bill 41 led directly to the proliferation of blockades on Canadian National Railway lines,” Flanagan writes. “Those traditional Wet’suwet’en chiefs who oppose the presence of the Coastal GasLink pipeline in their territory claimed that Bill 41 gave them a right to veto construction.”

RELATED: B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign pipeline protest fund

RELATED: If this isn’t an Indigenous veto over development, what is?

Efforts by Fraser and federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett to negotiate with pipeline opponents have been repeatedly rebuffed with the same response: RCMP and Coastal GasLink must leave Wet’suwet’en asserted territory, despite extensive consultation, local benefit agreements with all five Wet’suwet’en communities and 15 others, and a court order to clear roadblocks at worksites in northwestern B.C. The same demand was echoed by Mohawk protests in Ontario and Quebec, and student protests that attempted to blockade the opening of the B.C. legislature.

“One faction of one of these 20 first nations – some but not all of the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en – opposed the pipelines in spite of the agreements and tried to block construction in the face of two court injunctions,” Flanagan writes. “Their supporters felled trees across the road, partially cut other trees for mantraps, and stockpiled raw ingredients for making firebombs.”

Flanagan notes that former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has warned that UNDRIP can’t be imposed over Canadian law, but must be expressed through Section 35 of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Ousted as justice minister by Trudeau, Wilson-Raybould is a lawyer, a member of the Kwagiulth people of the B.C. coast, and daughter of Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee-Kla (Bill Wilson), one of the architects of aboriginal rights in Canada’s Constitution Act of 1982.

B.C.’s adoption of Bill 41 has little immediate effect on provincial law, but its effect on the UN itself soon after it passed in November.

“In early January 2020, three major projects came under attack from a UN agency on ‘free, prior and informed consent’ grounds,” Flanagan writes. “The Site C hydroelectric project in northeastern B.C., the Coastal GasLink pipeline connecting B.C. gas fields to the projected LNG plant in Kitimat, and the Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion from Alberta to Vancouver.”

The call to stop work on all three projects came from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, whose current membership includes China, Japan, Senegal, Turkey, Peru, Germany and Qatar.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoastal GasLink

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Someone used this counterfeit $50 to pay for items at the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store in downtown Duncan in April 2021. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan businesses warned of counterfeit cash

Fake $50 passed at Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, says the municipality’s fire halls have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (File photo)
Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
BC Fruit Growers’ Association gives thumbs up to provincial budget

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

Some Saanich firefighters have expressed concerns about first responders in the Island Health Region not being prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as an outbreak at a fire station would make service delivery a challenge. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Some Island firefighters not prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine despite working on frontlines

Saanich members express frustration, department calls on Island Health to take action

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

Most Read