UNDRIP Is Coming At You

Commentary, Aboriginal Futures, Brian Giesbrecht

With Canada’s rail transportation system at a standstill, and fires being lit under passing trains- while police stand by helplessly and our Prime Minister makes ineffectual speeches about “dialogue” – you might be thinking that things could not get any worse.

Well, think again, because there’s a good chance that UNDRIP is coming at you. What is UNDRIP? It stands for United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Aboriginal Peoples. It is now the law in British Columbia. In fact, it was the chant on the lips of the Extinction Rebellion and other protestors who forcibly blocked the doors of the B.C Legislative Buildings preventing legislators and others from entering the building. 

They chanted “UNDRIP, UNDRIP, UNDRIP” because they understood perfectly well that this was the legislation that would allow virtually any indigenous group to stop any resource development- or even any legislation – that they did not like in its tracks (pun intended).

And we can see that happening in B.C right now where a federal cabinet minister has travelled to what is described by CBC and other mainstream media as “Wet’suwet’en territory” for a meeting with the handful of people who describe themselves as “hereditary chiefs”. 

The fact that “Wet’suwet’en territory” in fact consists of Crown land, privately owned land and entire towns is not even mentioned by CBC. Imagine your surprise if you heard your house and property – that you thought you had bought and paid for – described as “Wet’suwet’en territory” – now apparently subject to some unspecified rent or expropriation claim. 

And now a very real danger is that a Prime Minister – desperate to stop the blockade – will agree with the “hereditary chiefs” to enact the UNDRIP legislation federally. Doing so would grant the chiefs the absolute veto over all resource development that the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) has long sought. 

Former Alberta cabinet minister and respected academic Ted Morton cautions the nation about exactly this happening in a February 21, 2020 National Post article entitled “The Prime Minister’s Dangerous Game”. Even former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould admitted that enacting UNDRIP federally was “unworkable”. It would give approximately 2% of Canada’s population (status Indians living on reserves) control over Canada’s vast natural resources.

The Wet’suwet’en example is a good illustration of how that veto would work. A small fraction of only one of the 633 reserves, or First Nations, some the size of small villages only, has brought this nation to its knees. There appear to be many divisions within that one “nation”. 

Some of those Wet’suwet’en people claim some kind of inherited legal authority. If any one of those people with some strange claim to royalty is unhappy with any decision they seem able to call out their Extinction Rebellion and Mohawk troops and bring the nation’s commerce to a full stop. Now multiply those internal divisions by 633 and it can easily be seen how dangerous this game really is.

Morton cautions Canadians about what he thinks this desperate Prime Minister is up to. He also advises the provincial premiers to get on a bus or plane to Ottawa and tell the Prime Minister in no uncertain terms that they are refusing to surrender their provincial autonomy – and land that belongs to all Canadians – in this way. 

Our Constitution makes it very clear that the Prime Minister has no authority to give away the resources that are clearly within provincial jurisdiction. 

Morton’s advice is good. The premiers should do what he suggests. Just don’t take the train.

 

Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and a senior fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.