Questioning the wording in B.C.’s UNDRIP bill

Dear editor,

On Oct. 24, the B.C. Government tabled their bill on adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

With the support of the Greens, the bill will surely pass. Since B.C. is the only province that hasn’t negotiated any land treaties this is a step forward, with special thanks to Minister Scott Fraser for the precedent-setting work his department has done.

I’m puzzled though by the meaning of the words in Article 19 where the different parties must negotiate in ‘good faith’ to ‘obtain free, prior and informed consent’ before actions are implemented that might affect the Indigenous people involved.

Last year I attended a meeting at our local college to hear three guests talk about the B.C. Government’s decision to proceed with the Liberal project to build the Site C dam. Amnesty International presented, as did Indigenous leader Bob Chamberlin and Sarah Cox (award-winning author of Breaching the Peace).

I took home a copy of UNDRIP and am astounded at how many articles in this document have been violated by the ongoing construction of the Site C dam. Is there any chance that this bill could be made ‘retroactive’ in order to address these serious violations? Probably not.

Sadly, in my elder years, I’ve become somewhat cynical. I see the B.C. Government, hydro, forestry, mining companies, and the LNG promoters publicly getting that ‘free, prior and informed consent’ and then carrying on as planned! The minister has said so himself…”No veto over development … minimum standards,” obviously business as usual. Very disheartening.

Rosemary Baxter

Courtenay B.C.