Skip to main content

B.C. to prioritize negotiation over litigation for Indigenous rights

David Eby, B.C. attorney general and minister responsible for housing, speaks during a social housing funding announcement in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck David Eby, B.C. attorney general and minister responsible for housing, speaks during a social housing funding announcement in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Wednesday, July 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The British Columbia government says it has developed “a new approach to litigation” as part of its process to implement its 2019 legislation adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Attorney General's Ministry says in a news release the goals of a series of 20 directives for the Crown are prioritizing resolution and negotiated settlement and reducing the potential for legal action over Indigenous rights and title.

Attorney General David Eby says it's important to respect that First Nations may choose to go through the courts, while at the same time recognizing litigation is an adversarial process that can drive the two sides further apart rather than advance reconciliation.

The ministry says the first directive for Crown counsel in civil litigation is that they must understand and apply the principles of B.C.'s 2019 law that requires the province to align its laws with the United Nations declaration on Indigenous rights.

For ongoing litigation that began before the passage of the Declaration Act, the directive says counsel must review their pleadings, legal positions and litigation strategy to ensure that they are consistent with the act.

It says counsel must work with the Indigenous Relations Ministry and “take steps to resolve any inconsistencies, including amending pleadings.”

In circumstances where it appears impossible to resolve an inconsistency, the directive says counsel must consult with the attorney general.

Another directive says counsel should “vigorously pursue” alternative forms of resolution throughout litigation, and their main goal is to use the courts as a last resort, “in the narrowest and most constructive way possible.”

Terry Teegee, regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, says the province is “doing the right thing to push to change the legal culture of fighting and denying (Indigenous) rights.”

The directives “may not change the system overnight,” but they're a welcome and overdue step, he says in a statement released by the province.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, also applauded the changes.

“There is a real opportunity now to resolve matters, working collaboratively, and to remove the enormous burden borne by many Indigenous leaders in British Columbia who had to fight tooth and nail to get recognition, sometimes in decades-long matters,” he says in a statement.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a retired judge and law professor at the University of B.C., says that in the past, relationships were “poisoned” by “endless procedural and technical motions and a blanket denial of rights.”

The litigation directives will bring “necessary shifts in the mindset and approach of lawyers” acting on the province's behalf, her statement says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2022. Top Stories

'No concessions' St-Onge says in $100M a year news deal with Google

The Canadian government has reached a deal with Google over the Online News Act that will see the tech giant pay $100 million annually to publishers, and continue to allow access to Canadian news content on its platform. This comes after Google had threatened to block news on its platform when the contentious new rules come into effect next month.

Ontario doctors disciplined over Israel-Gaza protests

A number of doctors are facing scrutiny for publicizing their opinions on the Israel-Hamas war. Critics say expressing their political views could impact patient care, while others say that it is being used as an excuse for censorship.


opinion Don Martin: With Trudeau resignation fever rising, a Conservative nightmare appears

With speculation rising that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will follow his father's footsteps in the snow to a pre-election resignation, political columnist Don Martin focuses on one Liberal cabinet minister who's emerging as leadership material -- and who stands out as a fresh-faced contrast to the often 'angry and abrasive' leader of the Conservatives.

Kraft debuts dairy-free mac and cheese in the U.S.

The Kraft Heinz Co. said Wednesday it's bringing dairy-free macaroni and cheese to the U.S. for the first time. The company said the new recipe has the same creamy texture and flavor of its beloved 85-year-old original Mac & Cheese but replaces dairy with ingredients like fava bean protein and coconut oil powder.

Stay Connected