Canada becomes a full supporter of the UNDRIP
- EFN Staff | May 10, 2016
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, today announced that Canada is now a full supporter, without qualification, of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Today's announcement also reaffirms Canada's commitment to adopt and implement the Declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.
This announcement confirms Canada's commitment to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples – a relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Canada will engage with Indigenous groups on how to implement the principles of the Declaration. This engagement will include provinces and territories whose cooperation and support is essential to this work and to advancing the vital work of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Related: Legal Eagle: UNDRIP
"Today's announcement that Canada is now a full supporter of the Declaration, without qualification, is an important step in the vital work of reconciliation. Adopting and implementing the Declaration means that we will be breathing life into Section 35 of Canada's Constitution, which provides a full box of rights for Indigenous peoples,” said the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs.
Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and AFN Regional Chief for Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard today welcomed the Government of Canada's position.
"Today, Canada is sending an important message to Indigenous peoples, to all Canadians and to the international community that Indigenous rights are human rights," said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. "Canada's commitment to work with First Nations to fully adopt and implement the Declaration is a crucial step in reconciliation, rebuilding the relationship and honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action. The UN Declaration is a framework and an essential tool to guide the work of reconciliation that will move us all forward."
The UN Declaration sets out minimum standards for ensuring Indigenous peoples enjoy fundamental human rights, including the collective right to self-determination and rights in their traditional territories. The Government of Canada formally adopted the Declaration in 2010, but this was accompanied by statements outlining several qualifications. Similar statements were made by Canada in 2007 at the UN General Assembly (where Canada actually voted against the Declaration) and again in 2014 when Canada issued an Explanation of Vote at the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
"First Nations will continue to press at every level for the full implementation of the Declaration which is good for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians," said AFN Regional Chief Ghislain Picard. "The Declaration sets a strong foundation for the way in which we should work together – respectfully, nation-to-nation and in the spirit of reconciliation."
The AFN has been pushing for full and unqualified support for the UN Declaration. On April 15 of this year National Chief Bellegarde wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to utilize the UNPFII as an opportunity to express unqualified support for the Declaration to "…signal to the international community that Canada is a human rights leader rather than an obstacle respecting this key UN human rights instrument." Today, federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Bennett stated on the floor of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues that Canada is officially a full supporter of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualification.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) also welcomed the news. However, the FSIN is cautious and will proceed carefully calling for full inclusion in developing this framework and establishing this acknowledged international Treaty Indigenous relationship.
“The announcement to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is long overdue and important to our First Nation people,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “We as Indigenous peoples have to be fully included in all aspects of this relationship that includes developing the language of the framework, the appointment of any government advisors and the full participation during the draft stages all the way to the final outcome document.”
The relationship the Federal Government is undertaking with our Indigenous peoples, Tribes and Nations must be one of respect, partnership and reflect the spirit and intent of the sacred agreements that are our Treaties, adds Cameron. It must take the relationship further and ensure the minimal standard is used as base and not just meet that minimum standard that is the UNDRIP but build on that and honour Treaty obligations, he says.
“The U.N. Declaration affirms and strengthens our laws and our Inherent and Treaty Rights. Our Treaties are of international stature and the Declaration is our tool to defend those rights,” said Chief Cameron. “This is an important point in the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada in moving forward on the path of reconciliation. We need to ensure what we do today will not harm our generations of tomorrow.”
National Chief Bellegarde will be at the 15th session of the UNPFII Thursday May 12 to attend a side event on implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
The theme of the 15th Session of the UNPFII is "Indigenous peoples: conflict, peace and resolution". For live video streaming of all open meetings visit http://webtv.un.org/