BC FORUM News - From The Advocate, Winter, 2019
BC workers welcome landmark rights legislation
The BC Federation of Labour (BCFED) says it stands proudly with Indigenous people and communities in support of the historic Indigenous rights legislation introduced in late October by the BC NDP government.
“Workers understand that Indigenous rights are human rights. Respecting those rights will benefit everyone,” said Laird Cronk, president of the BCFED.
The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act was co-developed with the First Nations Leadership Council. If passed, it will make BC the first province to fully recognize the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“Indigenous rights have been denied too long leading to conflict and uncertainty. This legislation creates a just and equitable path for economic development that benefits all workers and communities in BC,” said Cronk.
The BC labour movement has a clear and longstanding mandate from its members to support action on Indigenous rights implementation. At its 57th convention in 2016, resolutions were passed committing the BCFED to support Indigenous peoples' inherent right to self-determination as well as to support efforts to bring the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into law in BC and Canada.
“The status quo isn’t working,” said Cronk.
“The courts have been imploring governments to get on with real action on Indigenous rights for decades. As the voice of 500,000 unionized workers, including many thousands of Indigenous workers in the province, we are proud to support this historic piece of legislation that does just that.”
The government says the legislation is a clear action plan for reconciliation.
Over time, as provincial laws are modified or enacted, they will be aligned with the UN Declaration. BC laws will not change immediately. Bringing existing provincial laws into alignment with the UN Declaration will take time and will require consultation with Indigenous peoples and stakeholders including business, industry and local government.
“This new law is an important step toward true and lasting reconciliation, where we build a robust and sustainable economy by working together, and create economic and social opportunities for Indigenous peoples, communities across BC, business and industry,” said Premier John Horgan.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations, who joined other First Nations leaders at the Legislature, said economic prosperity is one of the key goals of all British Columbians and First Nations.
“This legislation provides the tools to create certainty, to make decisions better and to ensure that our people can get out of poverty. Business leaders and investors here and around the world must understand that we can do business better when First Nations rights are included and respected,” he said.