The B.C. government announced two new bills aimed at advancing reconciliation efforts and ensuring the safety of Indigenous human rights. The legislation amendments were officially introduced Wednesday, Nov. 17.
Bill 18 was tabled by David Eby, Attorney General, adding Indigenous identity as a protected ground against discrimination in the province’s Human Rights Code. Eby also tabled Bill 29, which is an amendment to the Interpretation Act to clarify the protection of Indigenous people’s rights under section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, also known as a universal non-derogation clause.
The amendments were created by the province in collaboration with Indigenous representative organizations. The draft plan was in the works for over a year and released in June 2021 for further input, and the final action plan is projected for 2022.
“We know that the long-standing impacts of colonialism and systemic racism continue to affect Indigenous communities to this day,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, in a press release. “These legislative amendments add further protections to the rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C. and help advance reconciliation in our province.”
As of now, although the protection of all is implied in the B.C. Human Rights Code, it does not explicitly classify “Indigenous identity” as a protected ground from discrimination. These Bills will clarify the inclusion of Indigenous within the governmental system.
“The Interpretation Act amendments introduced today (Nov.17) are a critical step in supporting meaningful implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act,” said Cheryl Casimer, First Nations Summit Political Executive, in a press release. “This will require joint and strategic work to audit and update laws and regulations to bring them into alignment with Indigenous human rights standards. In particular, the critical work to eradicate all forms of racism and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples is particularly pressing.”
Haley Grinder, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer