Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office recently responded very carefully to questions posed by Northern Public Affairs regarding the federal government’s commitment to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr also recently stated that the federal government is working on a “Canadian definition” of UNDRIP. What exactly does this mean and what should we expect? Looking closely, we can see the federal government telegraphing its approach.
First, it is important to understand that the UN Declaration is an international legal instrument borne out of decades of deliberation between states and Indigenous Peoples. UNDRIP sets out “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being” of Indigenous Peoples, including the much discussed standard of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). While the specific contours of FPIC are the subject of much discussion, there is no doubt that it is intended to uphold Indigenous Peoples as decision-makers in their own lands in accordance with their own political and legal traditions.