Canadian Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announced Canada’s full, unqualified support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP, or the UN Declaration) Tuesday morning at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
Bennett said the UN Declaration will be implemented in accordance with section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, which she called a “robust framework” and “full box of rights”.
The following is a collection of statements from Indigenous leaders in response to Canada’s announcement on the full implementation of UNDRIP:
National Inuit Leader Says Canada’s Support for UNDRIP represents little change
Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the national representational organization for Inuit in Canada, welcomed today’s statement of good will by Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, at the 15th United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, that Canada will be a full supporter of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualifications. However, Obed added that the statement disappointingly suggests little change from the previous government’s stance on the right of Inuit and other Indigenous peoples to self-determination.
Minister Bennett referred to Section 35 of the Constitution Act as a “full box of rights,” and suggested that the minimum standards affirmed in the U.N. Declaration will be interpreted to fit into Canada’s interpretation of Section 35.
Unfortunately, these qualifying statements based on Canada’s interpretation about how the Declaration will be implemented are fundamental departures from the spirit and intent of the Declaration itself.
“I look forward to working with Indigenous representatives and the Government of Canada to move beyond the current unilateral positions stated today,” said Obed.
Dene National Chief: Rhetoric must end; concrete actions needed
Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus said, “As a UN General Assembly Declaration, what it does mean is that Canada supports our Treaty and Aboriginal Rights to be international.” … Erasmus noted just how refreshing the minister’s announcement was, “because it means Canada is willing to come to terms with the legal realities that exist by implementing UNDRIP.”
Erasmus said that in the Northwest Territories (NWT) it means the Dene have the human right to govern themselves because UNDRIP is about human involvement, at a minimum standard. “The White Paper is still in practice where we live. By hearing evidence during the Berger Inquiry in 1974, Justice Thomas Berger made reference to the NWT as being in a state of apartness, better known as “apartheid”. It still is in existence in 2016.” Erasmus added that the NWT is the only place in Canada where First Nations are a majority and the Dene are still not governing themselves and that the public government has been imposed upon them “…and it is a mess!”
The Dene Nation supports NDP MP Romeo Saganash who re-introduced his private member’s bill, Bill C-262, has put forward legislation to fully implement the UNDRIP in Canada. Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus met with Saganash last week in Ottawa to encourage him to continue his best efforts to have Canada’s laws, regulations and policy changes to coincide with UNDRIP.
“Now the federal government must follow through on bringing to fruition appropriate funding for First Nations’ education, health services, languages, proper housing and clean water,” added Erasmus saying that the federal government must follow through on all other treaty guarantees, promises and provisions that are embedded in Treasury Board funding decisions. “We look forward to IAND and other federal government departments supporting First Nations’ empowerment. The rhetoric must end; our peoples need to see concrete actions, or it’s just words.”
Assembly of First Nations welcomes Canada’s unqualified support for UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
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 unqualified support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) underway in New York, NY.
“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.”
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day looks forward to working with Canada on full engagement and partnership in implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day calls Canada’s full adoption and implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples a landmark decision and a clear signal that will light the way towards further reconciliation and strengthening the nation to nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples.
“This is a turning point in our relationship and the recognition of our rights but I must point out that we are only regaining what we had previous control of; our right to the lands, territories and resources which we have traditionally owned and occupied since recorded time,” said Ontario Regional Chief Day. “I am hopeful that the adoption of UNDRIP will help end a dark Canadian legacy where Indigenous Peoples were forbidden to participate in any decision-making that affected our land, our rights and our future.
“This is a significant step along the path of reconciliation where we will have the right to full engagement and the inherent and indisputable right to say ‘No More’. At the same time, UNDRIP, just like the mandates letters to the federal Cabinet Ministers, are just words on paper. Canada must follow through with significant funding to finally address the poverty and despair in far too many of our communities. We can’t wait five more years until the $8.4 billion rolls out to our communities. This is the reason why UNDRIP was first drafted a decade ago – to ensure Indigenous peoples are able to escape the colonial chains of poverty.”
Quebec Native Women: Canada commits to implement the principles the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, made the announcement today at the 15th session of the Permanent Forum of the United Nations on Indigenous Issues and Quebec Native Women (QNW) is very pleased and optimistic about the future that stands before Indigenous peoples of Canada…
QNW also calls upon the active participation of the government of Quebec in the implementation of the Declaration in the province.
QNW is very involved in the promotion of the Declaration, because the implementation of the declaration will have a direct impact on Indigenous women, their family and their community. “States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination” Article 22.2. “The implementation of the Declaration in its entirety will not happen overnight, it is a longterm commitment that will require further collaboration between the government and Indigenous peoples, but this is how we can work together towards true reconciliation,” says Viviane Michel, QNW’s president.
Indigenous Bar Association: UNDRIP much more than refinement of section 35
The Indigenous Bar Association (IBA) recognizes the Government of Canada’s recent decision to adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in accordance with the Canadian Constitution and without “qualification.”
The IBA was interested in the Minister of Indigenous Affairs’ announcement regarding the Declaration, “breathing life into Section 35 and recognizing it as a full box of rights for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.” Ms. Koren Lightning-Earle, President of the Indigenous Bar Association, stated in response ‘the Declaration is much more than a refinement of section 35 of the Constitution. It has the potential to be transformative of the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and Canada.
Adopting UNDRIP, in addition to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, provides the Government with the necessary principles to improve the nation-to-nation relationship as envisioned by the parties at the Treaty of Niagara in 1764. A nation-to-nation relationship whereby the Government recognizes and promotes the dignity, survival and well-being of this country’s original inhabitants, remedies the legacy of residential schools and advances the process of reconciliation. “Adoption is the first step. We look forward to working with the federal government on the many ways in which the Declaration must be implemented by Canada in order to demonstrate its full commitment to a nation-to-nation relationship.” said Lightning-Earle.
UBCIC Calls on Trudeau Government to Truly Commit to UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
At the 15th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Canada publicly stated it would be a full supporter of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration) without qualification and then immediately qualified the statement by adding “to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs observed, “Canada must commit to the true spirit and intent of the Declaration, by not doing so threatens the very purpose, essence and integrity of the Declaration as a fundamental international human rights instrument for all States to honour. The Declaration advances human rights for Indigenous peoples beyond the status quo and offers a framework for justice and reconciliation. Clearly it should be Canada’s own legal and constitutional frameworks that must adapt to the Declaration, not how the Declaration can be domestically defined, especially our free, prior and informed consent (FPIC), solely on one section of the Constitution of Canada.”
Photo credit: istockphoto/Gilles Dion