On November 26, 2019, the government of British Columbia unanimously voted in favour of enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into official law.
The Ktunaxa Nation feels passing the legislation will allow B.C. to better formulate a plan towards a beneficial future for Indigenous and non-indigenous people.
“The legislation that was just given royal ascent will help guide government actions in terms of moving forward on specific issues,” said Kathryn Teneese, Chair of the Ktunaxa Nation Council. “They can look to specific articles and make plans accordingly to ensure that the work they’re doing is in line with articles from the U.N. declaration.”
Teneese added that she feels the legislation means positive progress has been made.
“This a step down the continuing path of reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people. Now we have some guidelines that will help frame the conversation as we move forward,” expressed Teneese “It’s going to be a long journey, but it’s one that hopefully we’ll be able to move forward together.”
According to the Act, it sets out a framework that puts indigenous people on equal footing as non-indigenous people. The Ktunaxa Nation has been using and referring to the 46 article document since its inception. It has taken time to get recognition in Canada, even though the declaration was passed in 2007.
“There were four countries that did not endorse the declaration, at first. That was Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Australia,” said Teneese. “Since then, I believe all of them have come on board. British Columbia is the first province in Canada to pass legislation that works towards the implementation of the declaration.”
Teneese added that an important next step for B.C. and Canada is to make sure indigenous people are involved in decision making within the government.
“It allows us to try to address some of the long-standing concerns that have been affecting the relationship over the years,” said Teneese. “Now we have an opportunity through legislation that is going to compel certain parties to do something, but le’s plan that something together.”
Some of those concerns, Teneese said, have been acknowledging the rights of indigenous people.
“It’s really about how we recognize the role of indigenous people in this country,” explained Teneese. “We have some work to do in terms of acknowledging and recognizing that it’s okay for us to be a diverse society. All of us have something to contribute to this diversity.”
Teneese added that official recognition of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a significant step towards reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous people.