UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

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..from an email

Did you know that Canada still has not fully adopted and implemented the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples? Despite the federal government’s endorsement at the United Nations, there is still work to be done here on the ground.

In April of 2016, NDP MP Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou) tabled bill C-262, An Act to Ensure the Laws of Canada Respect the UN Declaration. Since then he has completed a grassroots tour that took him into dozens of communities, First Nations, traditional territories and homelands. He has also advocated for the rights of Indigneous Peoples to unions, business, church groups, and various levels of government. This is work he has been doing for 40 years.  

The first hour for second reading of C-262 has been scheduled for DECEMBER 4, 2017 in the House of Commons. The decades of work of hundreds of Indigenous folks will be front and center in the discussions of the Government of Canada.

Did you know that today, October 28, is also Romeo’s birthday? To celebrate we are asking that you give him a little birthday present; something that will only take a few minutes of your time. You ask yourself, what on earth could I give this person I hardly know? Here are some suggestions:

Our heartfelt thanks for all the work you are doing to raise awareness. With your help MPs and Senators are expressing their intent to support the C-262 and people all over are talking about the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Adopt and Implement

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BC's Declaration Act explained


The first part of the act sets out a requirement. The government must take a responsibility to take all measures to ensure all laws are in alignment with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The act requires an action plan to be developed with First Nations to achieve that objective. And further, the minister responsible must report annually on progress toward this objective. This requirement creates an accountability mechanism so that First Nations and the public can see whether the government is productively moving toward the goal.

The next part of the act creates the ability for the government to create agreements with Indigenous governing bodies. Those agreements can be for a great reason: sharing statutory powers claimed by the provincial government with Indigenous governing bodies ie: decisions are to be made jointly.

This section is powerful for a few reasons. The act defines Indigenous governing bodies as Indigenous Peoples with rights and title or treaty rights under Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution Act. There is a critical distinction here: the act does not define Indigenous governing bodies as Indian bands under the Indian Act, but as self-determining groups with rights and title.

Those could include multi-community organizations, mixtures of elected and hereditary leadership or any structure as determined by the group itself. The act then gives powers for the government to share statutory decisions with Indigenous Peoples through formal agreements. It’s important, however, to recognize it’s up to First Nations to organize themselves to do this work.

Shared decision-making

What are all the statutory decision-making powers the province claims? That is the crucial question for anyone wondering what the legislation means. Indigenous governing bodies may use this to create agreements on shared decision-making in environmental assessments over industrial projects in their territory or taking control of child welfare for kids in the care system.

The point is that each Indigenous community can define for themselves what they would like to prioritize.

The provincial government is also now recognizing the inherent self-determination of Indigenous groups and including them in decision-making. The province is extending its arm of decision-making to include Indigenous communities. It uses UNDRIP as a framework for determining what decisions need to be shared.

The act also includes a “non-derogation clause.” This wording is a standard clause often added to legislation or agreements to protect and affirm inherent Aboriginal and treaty rights and title. Nothing in the act can be read to take away any existing Aboriginal or treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada under Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. As is later laid out, B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is to enable further rights without watering down any existing rights.

The province is creating new tools available to all First Nations in B.C. Any First Nation that may have signed a final agreement under the B.C. Treaty Process or self-government agreement is given new opportunities to exercise rights and decision-making.

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What about consent?

Both the provincial government and First Nations leaders have expressed their opinion that consent does not equal veto. The premier pointed out in his remarks to media that neither the legislation nor declaration contain the word veto. Dr. Roshan Danesh describes it by saying, “Consent and veto are not the same thing, and consent is not a veto over resource development.”

Consent is often described as a process. James Anaya, former special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, explained that free, prior and informed consent is a standard to support parties working together in good faith, making every effort to achieve mutually acceptable arrangements and that a focus should be on building consensus.

Each Indigenous governing body must define the question of how to implement it on the ground. The essence of the right to self-determination is the right to define your political future, including the implementation of your rights.

Simple, but powerful

At four pages long, but with the UN declaration attached, B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act is a short but powerful piece of legislation. For many generations, B.C. has operated on a colonial understanding of its role, powers and authority, where it assumed control over Indigenous lands and Indigenous Peoples. Since 1982 when Canada repatriated the Constitution, provincial governments have refused to provide clarity and instead left it to the courts to figure things out.

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..the author of the above piece

 Tl'akwasik'an Khelsilem -  Councillor Squamish Nation, North Vancouver


Why I Don't Support UNDRIP




"As domestic law it's a leap toward the termination of any hope of decolonization. Assuming decolonization is of any importance to them."

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B.C. takes historic steps towards the rights of Indigenous Peoples, but the hard work is yet to come


Implementation questions linger

In some quarters, any talk of actually upholding the UN Declaration will spur anxiety and opposition. Readers may be familiar with the fact that Bill 41 is based on proposed federal legislation. Romeo Saganash’s private members bill, Bill C-262, died in the Senate in June 2019 after the delaying tactics of a handful of Conservative senators prevented it coming to a final vote.

Concerns over the implications of the UN Declaration have also popped up from time to time in B.C. media.

Speaking to the legislature after the bill was introduced, Cheryl Casimir, of the First Nations Summit, joked: “Did you hear that? The sky didn’t fall.”

I agree wholeheartedly. As someone who has intensively studied the UN Declaration, its content, its history and the work of Indigenous Peoples around the world to bring its provisions to life, I can say without hesitation that the fears and anxiety that have been stirred up around implementation are overblown and unwarranted.

Implementation of the declaration is already well under way, albeit in a patchwork and uncertain way. Courts, human rights tribunals and environmental impact assessment panels have already referenced and applied its provisions.

The importance of Bill 41 is that it provides a framework for the province to now engage more proactively so that implementation can unfold in a more predictable and consistent way. Bill 41 requires the province to develop a co-ordinated action plan “to achieve the objectives of the Declaration” and to report regularly to the legislature on the progress being made.


The bill also requires that the government implement it “in consultation and co-operation” with Indigenous Peoples. The phrase “in consultation and co-operation” is crucial. The words come directly from the UN Declaration itself and signal the imperative of going beyond mere consultation to instead work together in what the declaration calls “a spirit of partnership and mutual respect.”

Legislative pathways have always been considered essential for domestic implementation of the UN Declaration. As the text of Article 38 states: “States, in consultation and co-operation with Indigenous Peoples, shall take the appropriate measures, including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.”

Various UN bodies have called for legislative measures and public policies to implement the rights recognized in the declaration, yet they also recognize that legislation alone is generally not sufficient.

Without a doubt, there is significant work ahead to identify, prioritize and implement the reforms needed to bring B.C. in line with the requirements of international human rights law. Even with the framework provided by the UN Declaration, it will not be quick or easy work to uproot the legacies of colonialism present in provincial law and policy.

Action plans

While B.C. is about to become the first jurisdiction in the Commonwealth to adopt a legislative framework for implementation of the declaration, it will not be the first to develop an action plan for implementation. The collaborative development of a National Action Plan is already well under way in New Zealand.

The New Zealand government is working with the Maori people to identify key reforms necessary in their national laws and policies and co-develop their National Action Plan. As part of its process, the Human Rights Commission of New Zealand and Maori groups co-invited members of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to visit and provide advice. The government of British Columbia should follow suit.

While the action plan developed in B.C. must adapt to the specific needs of Indigenous Peoples in the province, it’s important to remain engaged with the ongoing processes of how the declaration is interpreted and applied globally.


If the UN declaration were serious, the racist coup in Bolivia would have been far more seriously condemned, with sanctions.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..and bolivia wasn't the first. then there's brazil. the declaration isn't about the un.  

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In the wake of Indigenous rights declaration, B.C.’s lawyers make ‘distasteful’ arguments in First Nations title case

On the same day the B.C. government passed legislation embracing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) in late November, lawyer Jack Woodward was in court representing the Nuchatlaht First Nation in a historic land title case.

“I was on my feet the day it came into force, so I could present it to the court,” Woodward told The Narwhal. 

“It had its first test before the ink was dry.”

But Woodward — renowned for his role in drafting Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, which enshrined Indigenous rights in the 1980s — said the newly minted law has meant very little to the Nuchatlaht case and arguments being used by B.C.’s lawyers in courts. 

The province claims the Nuchatlaht do not have legal claim to their lands because the nation abandoned its territory, Woodward said. 

“The province is completely wrong on the facts … They did not abandon Nootka. The lands were stolen and they were forcibly ejected,” Woodward said.

“I said to the judge that not only are these pleadings disgraceful, objectionable and distasteful, they are now illegal.”

New rules reinforce inherent Indigenous right to land

B.C.’s new law acknowledges that UNDRIP’s principles are specifically written with concern that “Indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of … their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources.”

The declaration also recognizes the “urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples … especially their rights to their lands, territories and resources.”

Article eight of UNDRIP says governments must use “effective mechanisms” to prevent the dispossession of Indigenous lands and resources.....


Is Reconciliation A Peaceful Process?  - by Tamara Starblanket


"On the international stage, Canada portrays itself as a peaceful state; however, the reality is quite different for our Original Nations and Peoples that remain in a colonial grip...The doctrine of reconciliation is implemented by the Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigneous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's (TRC) Call to Action.

These three mechanisms are assumed to be peaceful, but what actually drives the policy of reconciliation is intent to overrun our lands and our Nations and assimilate our Peoples into the colonial state. Reconciliation is the assimilation project refurbished through a false facade of peace..."

And since the primary wish of most Canadian liberals is mostly to disassociate themselves from these processes of usurpation, colonization and genocide of which they are beneficiaries, the above symbols and semblance of 'reconciliation', the 'false facade' are all that is required. Not its reality.


Re #60 -  Jack Woodward QC et al -  How They Got So Rich and Fat Losing Cases For Indigenous

"As an institutional class the legal profession in North America labours under a conflict of interest...Even if the lawyer is aware of the constitutional and international law that supports the sole authority of the ancestral law, the lawyer will feel bound to say that law does not matter given the legal system's prior suppression of its existence..."

An Identification of the Conflicted Relationship Between the Indigenous Nations and the Legal Profession in North America



First Test of UNDRIP Act and BC Premier Horgan Fails - Miserably


"The 'new era of rights, recognition and cooperation' promised by BC [NDP] Premier John Horgan last December at the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly will have to wait until  after Coastal Gaslink completes its development in Wet'suwet'en territory..."

NDP Premier speaks with forked tongue. Again. The evil spirits of Trutch and Begbie are alive and well in Brutish KKKolumbia.


Horgan's Pipeline Push Betrays His Reconciliation Promise


"...Are we not in a new era of reconciliation? A new decade? The decade of the enactment of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigneous Peoples (UNDRIP) Act in this province? So what does consent mean to this BC government? The answer is nothing..."


The BC NDP passed UNDRIP into law and promies to follow its principles except for the pesky parts like land title over unceded territory. This article from the post above is well written.

If the principles of UNDRIP are being implemented and being placed into laws, the government has to start respecting its provisions now.

For instance, Article 18 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to participate in any decision-making through their own procedures and law. This has not happened.

Article 26 gives them the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources they possess through ownership, and says the state must give legal recognition and protect their lands and resources. None of this has occurred to date, and it doesn’t look like B.C. is even considering it. The government is saying this is Crown land, the company has Crown permits, so therefore the development must happen.

Article 25 gives the Wet’suwet’en the right to strengthen their spiritual relationship with the land, waters and resources in their territories. But if their territory is destroyed for a pipeline, their relationship with their land will also be destroyed.


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Woman denied settlement for sexual assault on way to residential school because she wasn't yet a student


Chief Dsta'Hyl: 'That Basically is Genocide Itself' (and vid)


"...I think you should be going to all your political bodies right now across Canada and protesting this type of conduct because it is really under-handed and it's just very unfortunate that these people at this level of government should resort to these types of tactices and try to demonize the Wet-suwet'en people..."


"Breaking: Youth Occupy Chrystia Freeland's Office in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en demanding RCMP stand down and the federal government enter nation-to-nation talks."



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