What is decolonization?

Decolonization is central to the work of human rights in our society, and consequently to the work of BC’s Office of the Human Rights Commisioner. Decolonization is the dismantling of the process by which one nation asserts and establishes its domination and control over another nation’s land, people and culture. It is the framework through which we are working toward undoing the oppression and subjugation of Indigenous peoples in what is now known as British Columbia and unlearning colonial ways of thinking and being.

To make transformative and systematic change, it is important to learn about decolonization. We are all responsible for ongoing decolonization work and together we can imagine a new reality that honours Indigenous perspectives, culture and peoples.

What we’re doing

Our Office is committed to listening deeply to Indigenous peoples, supporting self-determination of Nations and working to dismantle structures that impede the full, equal and just participation of Indigenous peoples in all aspects of economic, social, cultural and political life.

Here are some of the examples of our work in this area.

Transforming the human rights system

We are committed to transforming B.C.’s human rights system to better respond to the needs of Indigenous peoples across the province. We begin this work through ambitious commitments to build relationships with First Nations governments and Indigenous communities in all corners of B.C.; we seek to connect with dozens of Nations each year in the hope of meeting with representatives from nearly all Nations in B.C. over the course of the Commissioner’s five-year term.

In early 2020, the BC Human Rights Tribunal released a transformation report from Ardith Walpetko We’dalx Walkem, QC, entitled Expanding our vision: Cultural equality and Indigenous peoples’ human rights, which aimed to make the province’s human rights system more accessible and effective for Indigenous peoples.

We are working in collaboration with the Tribunal and other actors in the human rights system to implement the key recommendations of this report—including policy and legislative change and public education—to make the human rights complaint system more relevant and useful to Indigenous peoples. This includes calling on government to amend the Human Rights Code to include a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of Indigenous identity.

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In fall 2019, the provincial government enshrined the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in provincial legislation. The passage of this legislation presents a momentous opportunity, and potentially a seismic shift in relations between the Province of B.C. and the governments of Indigenous nations across this province, as well as urban Indigenous populations. However, most of the hard work of giving meaning to this legislation remains in front of us. It is a critical time to ensure the spirit of this legislation is embedded into law, policy and regulation. BCOHRC is committed to monitoring the implementation of these important human rights commitments in collaboration with Indigenous leadership.

What we know


of Indigenous women have difficulty accessing health care in B.C.

due to systemic inequalities. This was reported among Indigenous women aged 16–24. (source)


of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are from British Columbia



of settlers in Canada know about residential schools

and the long-term impacts of residential schools. (source)


of all children placed in the care of child protection services are Indigenous