For more than 100 years, the Secwépemc people have asked for nothing more than the respect, recognition, and implementation of our collective Rights. Instead, our rights were trampled underfoot (literally at times) and our nation was divided and put on reserves. When the BC Greens and NDP announced on Monday (May 29, 2017) that they intend to form government in British Columbia, I took a moment to think of the potential impacts to Indigenous peoples in British Columbia – and specifically, the Secwepemc economy. The BC NDP’s 2017 platform stated that implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) would be a priority for all its ministers. They stated without qualification (unlike the federal government) that “We’ll review policies, programs and legislation to determine how to bring the principles of the Declaration to action in British Columbia.”
The federal government also made similar commitments, with some qualifications. On May 10, 2017, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett stood before the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and declared that “[The Government of Canada] intends nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.
So what does it mean to bring action to the principles of UNDRIP? All levels of government, including our own Indigenous governments, must take executive action in accordance with the guidelines of UNDRIP. Not only should reparations be made to make us whole again, but we must make all decisions moving forward with full respect for the Rights of Indigenous peoples. There are no less than 8 articles in UNDRIP which pertain to the Secwepemc economy. Below is a list of each of the articles:
Article 18: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matter which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as maintain and develop their own Indigenous decision-making institutions.
Article 19: States shall consult and cooperate in good faith and with the Indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measure that may affect them.
Article 20: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and develop their political, economic, and social systems or institutions to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.
2. Indigenous peoples deprived of their means of subsistence and development are entitled to just and fair redress.
Article 21: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social economy.
2. States shall take effective measure and, where appropriate, special measure to ensure continuing improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children, and persons with disabilities.
Article 23: Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing, and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programs through their own institutions.
Article 26: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories, and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise user or acquired.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories, and resources that they possess b reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.
3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the Indigenous peoples concerned.
Article 28: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair, and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used, or damaged with their free, prior, and informed consent.
2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.
Article 39: Indigenous peoples have the right to have access to financial and technical assistance from States and through international cooperation, for the enjoyment of the rights contained in this declaration.
In order to realize the full implementation of our economic rights as Secwepemc people, as articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we must first assert them to the fullest extent possible. In my view, the development of a Secwepemc Economic Commission as outlined in my blog is the fullest expression of our rights. If we are to assert our rights as a Secwepemc Nation, we must organize as one. Our truest power comes when we begin to act like a Nation.
Both the Provincial and Federal governments must provide the resources available to make this happen. INAC and Provincial programs don’t work and never will. Indigenous Nationhood is not a government program. We must be allowed to develop economic programs for our own nations as we see fit. In full compliance with UNDRIP, our governments must assert our ability to collect economic rents from our traditional territories from all activities occurring within Secwépemcul’ucw. If the Provincial and Federal governments are not willing to vacate the tax space, then it will become an extra cost to doing business in our territory.
Canada and the Province need to stop perpetuating the division of our nation through government programs aimed at keeping us confined to our reservations on a band by band basis. Any further funding from governments should be put toward the development of a Secwepemc governing authority and our nation allowed to collect our own revenue. Secwepemc territory is 180,000 kilometres squared, making it bigger than half the recognized nations in the entire world. There is no reason for us to be poor on our own land.