Getting a grip on UNDRIP and what it means for British Columbia

Event in Vancouver will look at how First Nations are succeeding in business relations with companies in the energy, mining, aquaculture, and forestry sectors

By Fabian Dawson

From resource extraction to harvesting the oceans and to creating energy corridors, British Columbia’s adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or UNDRIP, heralds a new era of shared prosperity for First Nations.

It opens the doors to meaningful reconciliation with First Nations, and economic opportunities being measured in the billions of dollars.

Next week, First Nations, governments, and businesses from across B.C. and Canada will come together in Vancouver to take on the tough issues associated with the implementation of UNDRIP – and the opportunities it creates for shared prosperity through partnership.

The Path to Shared Prosperity, an all-day forum, is an independent platform to highlight Indigenous voices and diverse perspectives.

“This inclusive event will look at how First Nations are succeeding in business relations with many kinds of enterprises – transportation, telecommunications, tourism, property as well as resource companies in energy, mining, aquaculture, and forestry, and more,” said Jennifer Turner, the event director.

“This is an historic opportunity to build a healthy and constructive relationship with Indigenous peoples…It is tragically overdue… If we get this right and succeed where our predecessors have failed, we will all be stronger for it. The ultimate outcome will come down to us – all of us,” said Turner.

“No single business or industry is exempt…better corporate citizenship can help us build healthier communities and become a pillar of economic strength.”

J.P. Gladu, president and CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) said succeeding in business anywhere in Canada is increasingly requiring strong relationships with Indigenous peoples.

“Businesses that meaningfully engage with Indigenous peoples to collaborate on ways to remove barriers and create opportunities are a key part of the solution, but many don’t know where to start,” he said.

Among the early adopters of agreements that reflect the principles of UNDRIP is B.C.’s aquaculture industry.

The first of these agreements was between The Kitasoo/Xai’Xais First Nation in Klemtu and Mowi Canada, then known as Marine Harvest, in 1998.

Last October, the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais First Nation and Mowi Canada West reached an agreement on a new 10-year partnership for economic development, and employment centred around salmon farming and processing in Klemtu.

Today, 20 BC First Nations have partnership agreements for farming salmon in their territory resulting in 78% of all salmon farmed in the province falling under a beneficial partnership with a First Nation.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, when speaking about UNDRIP, points to the 2018 agreement between three First Nations, two fish farm operators – Mowi and Cermaq Canada –  and his government.

This deal set the stage for an orderly transition of 17 salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago and provides a pathway for increasing sustainable aquaculture operations in Canada’s west coast.

The Broughton Archipelago is a group of islands on the northeastern flank of the Queen Charlotte Strait and involves traditional territories of the ‘Namgis First Nation, the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nations and Mamalilikulla First Nation.

“Our governments have come together to help revitalize and protect wild salmon, and provide greater economic certainty for communities and local workers. These are the kinds of gains true reconciliation can deliver,” said Horgan.

Marilyn Hutchinson, director of Indigenous & Community Relations at Grieg Seafood, which operates 22 salmon farms on B.C’s coast, said she hopes to learn and share the aquaculture industry’s relationship with First Nation communities at the event next week.

“We have always respected that we work and live in the traditional territories of many coastal Nations, and acknowledge the recommendations of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Wherever we operate, we strive to include local Nations on all levels of engagement, information sharing, and business opportunities,” said Hutchinson, whose company is one of the sponsors of the forum.

The event

Finding the Path to Shared Prosperity

Jan 14, 2020

Vancouver Convention Centre East

Speakers and panels, will include:

  •  B.C. Deputy Minister of Indigenous Relations & Reconciliation Doug Caul, who will kick off the day with a look at the province’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act – Bill 41;
  •  Crystal Smith, Haisla Chief Councillor and chair of the First Nations LNG Alliance, and JP Gladu, CEO of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, who will speak about Aboriginal business in this new era;
  •  A panel looking at the legal implications and requirements UNDRIP creates for companies and indigenous partners. Note – The Law Society of B.C. recently moved to require all lawyers in the province to take cultural competency training, in response to gaps identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
  •  Mike Downie, who will speak to his brother Gord Downie’s vision of a more inclusive Canada and Secret Path, a multimedia project that recounts the story of Chanie Wenjack, an Ojibwe 12-year-old boy who died while attempting to escape a Residential School and return home;
  •  Dr. Robert Joseph, residential school survivor and hereditary chief of Gwawenuk First Nation, who will join the lunchtime session to discuss his life’s work, the power of healing, and his role in creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission;
  •  Kim Baird, former Chief of the Tsawwassen First Nation, addressing how B.C. can lead the country on UNDRIP;
  • A series of candid presentations from First Nations leaders and their industry partners about project collaborations – the innovations and lessons learned;
  • A panel led by Dr. Michelle Cornfield of the Ucluelet First Nation taking a look at Bill 41 at work in the Salish Sea.
  • A group of seven young artists from Blueberry River First Nations will perform and share their experiences through song and spoken word during the early evening reception.

The event is open to the public, tickets are available through the website https://undrip2020.ca/

Image courtesy of Province of British Columbia shows the ceremony at the legislature to mark the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples becoming law.