What is UNDRIP?
The basis of UNDRIP is equality. It acknowledges the right of all peoples to be different, and that Indigenous Peoples should be free from discrimination. Any policy or practice based on asserting the superiority of one group or person over another is unjust and legally invalid. This means that UNDRIP can be used to challenge many of the existing policies and legislation the Canadian government has in place.
The historical injustices experienced by indigenous peoples worldwide has resulted in their colonization and dispossession of their land, territories and resources. UNDRIP asserts that that Indigenous People have the a collective right to self-determination, and all societal institutions, including legislators and government departments, courts, human rights bodies, and public institutions must take this into consideration.
The rights and needs of indigenous peoples documented in treaties, agreements and other constructive agreements with the states need to be respected and promoted. UNDRIP provides a framework for addressing past injustices and a set of practices to adhere to going forwards to that the historical, cultural and social circumstances of Indigenous peoples align with existing human rights standards.
The UN has a continuing role in promoting and protecting these rights. In some situations the arrangement between the state and indigenous peoples is an international concern.
Indigenous communities and organizations have used UNDRIP in a number of ways. First amongst these are the Calls to Action released by the TRC. While many of the recommendations included explicit reference to UNDRIP, Calls to Action 44 and 45 most directly called to use UNDRIP as the model of reconciliation. They read:
43. We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as the framework for reconciliation.
44. We call upon the Government of Canada to develop a national action plan, strategies, and other concrete measures to achieve the goals of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Both the Federal and Provincial governments took steps towards the implementation of these calls to action.
In Ontario, the response to the TRC final report and calls to action took the form of The Journey Together. For more information on this document, follow this link. Specific to UNDRIP, this document dictated:
“Many of the principles reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) are consistent with Ontario’s approach to Indigenous relations and reconciliation, which is rooted in a commitment to establish and maintain constructive, co-operative relationships based on mutual respect that lead to improved opportunities for all Indigenous peoples. Ontario will work in partnership with Canada and Indigenous partners as the federal government moves forward on its national plan to implement UNDRIP, and will take a strong, supportive and active role in considering policy options to address UNDRIP.”
Since then, the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation (MIRR) has led the initiative to implement UNDRIP. First Nations have indicated that UNDRIP needs to start at the community level, which MIRR has acknowledged. However, because of the historical relationship between First Nations and the Crown, the Federal government is responsible to implement UNDRIP. Therefore, Chiefs of Ontario is working with MIRR to develop processes for the federal government to implement concerning UNDRIP.
Most recently, on July 14, 2017 the Canadian government released ten ‘Principles’ that will guide the government’s relationship with Indigenous people (published on department of justice’s website). These principles flow from UNDRIP and section 35 of the Constitution Act. From the preamble to these ten principles, the following paragraph addresses UNDRIP:
The implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires transformative change in the Government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. One way that this is being pursued is through two private members bills introduced by the NDP: Bill C-262 and Bill C-332. These would make the laws of Canada align with UNDRIP.
The UN Declaration is a statement of the collective and individual rights that are necessary for the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world, and the Government must take an active role in enabling these rights to be exercised. The Government will fulfil its commitment to implementing the UN Declaration through the review of laws and policies, as well as other collaborative initiatives and actions. This approach aligns with the UN Declaration itself, which contemplates that it may be implemented by States through various measures.
COO Resolutions pertaining to UNDRIP
Chiefs of Ontario continues to pressure the government to live up to these standards, as guided by Chiefs in Assembly resolutions 11/10 (Advancing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples),
COO is also working alongside AFN, as AFN resolution 37/2007 ratified UNDRIP and called for its implementation.