Terry Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Terry Teegee, B.C. regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

Letter: B.C. takes leap forward with promised legislation

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to be implemented

On Feb. 13, 2019, Premier Horgan took an empowering step forward for this Province with the commitment to introduce legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”).

First Nations in B.C. strongly support Premier Horgan in this regard, and we share his courage to advance us all to prosperity. We also stand with the BC Government against the fear that inhibits growth and maturity for a society we all need in these times.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option. Although First Nations have over 276 legal victories, the judicial “duty to consult, accommodate and obtain consent” is not creating legal certainty for anyone. Relying on the courts for legal certainty is like relying on pharmaceuticals for good health. Both are reactive and symptomatic and have no foresight. It also wastes financial and human resources that can be better used to generate wealth together.

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The argument that our BC economy will be imprisoned by First Nations veto rights and no natural resource project will successfully garner unanimous support is wrong and fear mongering. Any argument that requires belief in Armageddon is based on fear. This is a time for courage and wisdom. Courage is knowing what not to fear.

Yes, consensus-building requires hard work. Getting to “yes” involves candid and open dialogue. Yes, First Nations in British Columbia will honour our constitutional and reciprocal obligation to our Peoples and do our part to achieve mutual consent. It is our responsibility that we take great pride and honour – we hold our heads high when we speak truth to power. Few politicians do.

Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will establish a legacy of legal and policy reform, but it will not happen overnight. An UNDRIP Act is a commitment to harmonize legislation and it will create a deliberate movement in B.C. law towards full compliance, but it will be thoughtful and incremental.

Experts, courts, and First Nations leaders have been clear that consent and veto are different things. No rights are absolute, and at the heart of consent is the process of governments working together to align their decision making processes – like we do every day in this country between different governments. To be honest, the only real governments that speak of paramountcy are the Crown and too often it is at the expense of First Nations peoples.

First Nations in BC have the wisdom to know that anything worthy takes tremendous collective effort and patience. The wisdom of our teachings requires us to learn from history and vow to better ourselves from past mistakes.

There is no other choice but to take up the challenge and create a workable and constructive process that achieves consent that all British Columbians and First Nations can be proud of. There is honour in being able to say to our children we did this together.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee

BC Assembly of First Nations


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