Individual and collective rights of Indigenous people
On September 13th, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), encompassing 370 million Indigenous peoples in more than 70 countries across the globe. This declaration is an international commitment to “the minimum standards required to ensure the survival, dignity and wellbeing of Indigenous people around the globe” and outlines individual and collective rights of Indigenous people, including self-determination, identity, culture and Indigenous lands and resources.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of this important recognition of the human rights of Indigenous people. In May 2016, Canada became a full signatory nation of UNDRIP, when then, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett declared: “Canada is now a full supporter of the [UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People] without qualification". Accepting UNDRIP is an important step for the government of Canada as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has called it the “framework for reconciliation.”
“Today’s announcement that Canada is now a full supporter of the Declaration, without qualification, is an important step in the vital work of reconciliation. Adopting and implementing the Declaration means that we will be breathing life into Section 35 of Canada’s Constitution, which provides a full box of rights for Indigenous peoples.” Carolyn Bennett, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, addressing the UN, May 2016
In July 2017, the Canadian Department of Justice released the report, Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous peoples. This report noted that “the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples requires transformative change in the Government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples.” The report places self-determination at the heart of Federal relations with Indigenous people, and spells out ten principles to guide the Government’s actions.
Indigenous people have called for these principles for many years, in protests, in petitions, and in court cases. The UN Declaration, the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s Calls to Action have articulated these principles as legal and constitutional expectations.