June 2016 Māori Law Review

Canada – fully endorses United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The government of Canada removed its objector status to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and intends to "adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution."

On 10 May 2016 the government of Canada reversed its objector status to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations in New York. The statement was received with a standing ovation.

UNDRIP was first adopted in 2007 by the United Nation General Assembly. The Declaration serves to outline basic rights held by indigenous peoples, such as rights to land, language, and traditional knowledge, among other things.

UNDRIP took over twenty years to create. When it was first adopted four states, Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand objected due to specific wording as well as the far-reaching nature of UNDRIP's articles. All four states have since pledged their support for UNDRIP.

Canada first endorsed the declaration in 2010 under the Harper Conservative government. However, this endorsement viewed UNDRIP as an "aspirational" document, and made no promises to implement its articles. Now, under the Trudeau Liberal government, Canada has announced that the country is "a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification," and plans to use the document to lead ongoing paths to reconciliation, continuing to build relationships with aboriginal peoples, and to guide further changes to legislation.

In speaking at the the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations in New York, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett shared Canada's plan to "adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution." The Declaration "breathes life" into section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982. Section 35 recognises the three distinct groups of aboriginal peoples in Canada (the First Nation, Inuit and Métis) and reaffirms treaty rights and land claims engagement with government.

UNDRIP serves to encourage and guide the government to engage with all of Canada's indigenous peoples to achieve the provisions outlined therein within the Canadian legal system, and to develop a thriving relationship between the government and aboriginal groups.

Notes

See the following articles about Canada's endorsement of UNDRIP in May 2016:

Indigenous and Northern Affairs - Government of Canada - United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Canada officially adopts UN declaration on rights of Indigenous Peoples

Author: Emerald UnRuh

Emerald UnRuh is the 2016 visiting indigenous scholar at the Māori Law Review. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa where she is studying International Development and Globalization on the Loran Scholarship. On graduating she plans to study law in her home province of British Columbia. As a proud Métis woman, Emerald is passionate about helping indigenous peoples, domestically and abroad.