The province has released the first annual report (“Annual Report”) on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (“DRIPA”). Section 5 of DRIPA requires the Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation to provide annual updates on the province’s progress of ensuring that BC laws are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“Declaration”). The province must also develop and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration.
There are no significant updates in this first Annual Report. This is not surprising because the Annual Report only covers the period from November 28, 2019 (when DRIPA was enacted) to March 31, 2020 (BC’s fiscal year end), and during this time some legislative sessions were delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Annual Report provides an indication of what to expect from future annual reports.
The Annual Report summarizes the progress the province has made to implement the Declaration since 2017. This includes the following actions taken in 2019 and 2020:
- Supporting Revitalization of Indigenous Languages: the First Peoples’ Cultural Council provided $15.68 million to First Nations communities across BC to revitalize connections to their languages and culture.
- Improving Justice for Indigenous Peoples: the BC First Nations Justice Council and the Ministries of Attorney General and Public Safety and Solicitor General signed the BC First Nations Justice Strategy (PDF) (“Strategy”). The Strategy includes improving cultural competency within the criminal justice system, diverting First Nations people from the court system, establishing roles for Elders, and a systemic approach to implementing the Gladue decision, which requires courts to consider the unique backgrounds of Indigenous offenders and alternatives to incarceration during sentencing.
- Sharing Long-term Stable Revenues: amendments were made to the Gaming Control Act for a long-term agreement to share provincial gaming revenues between the province and BC First Nations.
- Improving Emergency Preparedness: the province created the Indigenous Agency Working Group to address the needs of rural and remote Indigenous communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Supporting Skills Training Opportunities for Indigenous Learners: the province provided $8 million in funding to run a two-year Indigenous People in Trades Training Program.
The Annual Report then addresses progress the province has made to align provincial laws with the Declaration and to design an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration:
- Early discussions with the First Nations Leadership Council to discuss the province’s legislative priorities and gathering input from First Nations on their priority areas for legislative development or amendment in accordance with the Declaration.
- Early engagement with BC First Nations on designing an action plan began in February 2020.
The province has stated the action plan will be released in the 2020 calendar year. No other concrete future actions are discussed in the Annual Report.
We will continue to provide updates as the province releases its action plan and announces any other legislative changes to align BC’s laws with the Declaration. For background on DRIPA, please read our first, second, and third bulletins in this series.