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

SD62 bus driver Kerry Zado said it’s common to see drivers lose their patience and pass by his bus while he’s picking up students during the morning commute. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
School bus driver laments motorists who pass while red lights are flashing

All buses in Sooke School District outfitted with stop sign cameras

Victoria police are seeking home surveillance video and witnesses following a prowling incident in Esquimalt Jan. 20. (Black Press Media file photo)
Esquimalt prowler removes air conditioner, peers into person’s home

VicPD is seeking video footage, witnesses following Jan. 20 incident

A cyclist navigates the shoulder in traffic along Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria. (John Luton Photo)
Oak Bay council supports Fort Street bike lanes

Victoria bike lanes would connect to Cadboro Bay Road

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

Victoria police are warning people of a continued rise in cybercrime. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Victoria police warn of rising cybercrime called spear phishing

Fraudsters continue to trick people out of large sums of money

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New Duncan street signs will be in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional names in First Nations language

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Most Read