Creating certainty

Oct 30, 2019 | Blog, Governance | 1 comment

Bill 41, The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, is a critical change for the future of British Columbia.

For the first time in the history of our province, we move from the perspective of the denial of Indigenous rights to rights recognition.

It’s 2019 and long past due.

When the Bill was introduced on Thursday, many of the questions from reporters continued to build on a narrative that declaring the rights of Indigenous people creates uncertainty.

When confronted with this question, I asked the reporter if they felt the status quo gave them comfort? I asked if the current situation offered the level of certainty that the business community, municipalities, and Indigenous communities are all seeking?

Look at the billions of dollars spent in the planning and designing of the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain Pipelines only to be turned around over and over again by the Courts due to a lack of clarity on consultation. I asked whether this was the certainty the media are afraid of losing.

The current framework create uncertainty

It’s obvious: the current framework which guides the Crown-Indigenous relationships is uncertain, costly and unjust. These are not my personal findings, they are the repeated findings of the Supreme Court of Canada.

By adopting the articles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), a document based on well-established human rights norms that Canadians have fought for over generations and developed through an exhaustive deliberative democratic process, which forms the core of The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, we begin the process of establishing certainty for all British Columbians for the first time in the history of the province.

So when you hear folks, whether they be well-meaning reporters crafting the narrative of this historic occasion, or people deliberately frustrating a process that should have happened a century ago, suggesting the reason we cannot proceed is because of the uncertainty this Declaration Act will cause, just ask them whether they feel the status quo offers them the certainty they are seeking.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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1 Comment

  1. Jan Steinman

    We often hear the word “veto” as a source of “uncertainty” in implementing UNDRIP. This is because UNDRIP refers to “consent.” It does not use the word “veto.” The two concepts are easily confused — even purposefully, by those who insist they have “veto” power over those with less power.

    The word “consent” is an important clue. This is a process, not an event. Those who have studied consensus decision-making know better than to refer to “vetoing” a “decision.” Rather, they may “block” an “agreement” that they find will have catastrophic consequences for the entire body.

    “Decision” is from the same Latin root as “division.” It always has winners and losers. Rather, consensus processes refer to the more positive and joyful term, “agreement.”

    Achieving consent is a positive and joyful way of seeking agreement. Of course, those who wish to impose their ways on people with less power will continue to frame that in terms of “veto,” but we must keep coming back to the notion of “consenting to agreements” and its subtle and important differences to “vetoing decisions.”

    Language is a powerful thing. We need to use it with intention, and not throw words around as if one thing means another.


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