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Look before you leap: Impact of recent developments in Indigenous law

Author(s): Richard J. King, Sander Duncanson, Alexander (Zander) McGillivray

Dec 13, 2021

Indigenous law in Canada has evolved significantly over the last decade, and 2021 was no exception. While the past year was overshadowed by the tragicdiscovery of unmarked graves at former residential school sites and resulting pressures to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, 2021 also included significant developments in Indigenous law affecting infrastructure and resource development, including (1) the federal United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) bill receiving royal assent; (2) the British Columbia (B.C.) Supreme Court’s ruling that cumulative effects of industrial development infringed the treaty rights of a B.C. First Nation; and (3) the Federal Court’s recognition of the Crown’s duty to consult regarding economic benefits linked to Aboriginal rights. These developments are likely to have significant impacts on infrastructure and resource development, Aboriginal and treaty rights, and partnerships with Indigenous groups in the coming years.

Federal UNDRIP bill becomes law

On June 21, 2021, Bill C-15, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Canada) (the Act) received royal assent. The Act is Canada’s first substantive step towards ensuring federal laws reflect the standards outlined in UNDRIP, a non-binding international instrument that sets out “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”...