Widely thought of as a foundational requirement for true reconciliation between settler Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, the federal government is finally working to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Bill C-15, “An act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, has received its final and third reading in the Senate. It will now pass through Royal Assent to become law. It’s hard to put into words the importance of this law and how much it has buoyed our hopes for genuine reconciliation. Nature Canada is thrilled to witness this historic moment and take this opportunity to recommit as an organization to the implementation of the UNDRIP in Canada as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
— Excerpt from Nature Canada’s RECONCILIATION PRINCIPLES FOR OUR WORK WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
Canada and the UNDRIP
In September 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in the UN General Assembly by a landslide—144 countries in favour with only four votes against.
Much to our shame, Canada was one of the four countries that voted against the Declaration. Others were Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. All of which have similar colonial pasts with legacies of Indigenous cultural genocide and cruelty, including the implementation of residential schools.
In 2010, the Canadian Government endorsed the UNDRIP but refused to ratify it. Finally, in 2016, the federal government ratified the Declaration but struggled with the serious action required for implementation. The lack of action surrounding the framework for reconciliation inspired private Bill C-262 in 2018. Although most private bills fail, Bill C-262 made it through the first and second readings. The bill had the full support of the government as well as many opposition MPs, and by all accounts, had a legitimate shot at becoming law.
Sadly, Bill C-262, despite being so carefully worked through our democratic process, was scuttled in the unelected Senate when faced with its third and final reading.
Time for Change
Now, only a couple of years later and despite a minority government, it’s finally time for change.
The Declaration represents the biggest step forward for Indigenous Peoples in modern times. It aims to recognize the fundamental rights of Indigenous People throughout the world to their land, their culture and their customs. It also acknowledges the damage done to Indigenous Peoples by colonialism and will make free prior and informed consent a requirement for any undertaking that infringes on the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a great day! It sets a framework for harmony.