Canada Accepts UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People

By Frank Larue  

“We are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification” Canadian Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett stated at the UN. “We intend nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.”

Canadian Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett

Canadian Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett

There was a standing ovation from members of the UN when Bennett made her statement. The Canadian Constitution now officially recognizes Aboriginal peoples rights to self-determination, language, equality and land. Former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Chief Wilton Littlechild told the CBC “It was a very emotional moment for me. The Declaration is much like the treaties, it calls on us to work together. Today would not be too late to start the journey together.”

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould was also at the UN for the historical day, Canada was ready to implement Declaration. Through Section 35 of it’s constitution” Bennett told the members of the UN. “Canada has a robust framework for the protection of Indigenous rights. By adopting and implementing the UN declaration, we are excited that we are breathing life into Section 35 and recognizing it as a full box of rights for Indigenous Peoples in Canada.”

The Federal Government of Canada will now have to consult with Aboriginal leaders before implementing laws that affect Indigenous people. B.C’s Grand Chief Ed John told the media that “Indigenous governments are not some inferior form of authority. They are the original form of authority over their lands, resources and territories.”

The declaration was actually accepted in 2010 but the Harper government dismissed it as an “aspirational document”. The new Liberal Government had promised after being elected that it would re-instate the declaration in their efforts to solidify their relationship with Indigenous people. Senator Murray Sinclair, a former Manitoba judge, told the Ottawa Citizen “You have large numbers of Indigenous people here and they are bringing with them a sense that they have certain rights that they would like you and want you to respect.”

The Trudeau government lived up to its promise. Now the real work begins and it must be in conjunction with the provincial leaders. It will be a process that will take time and the economic climate in different areas of Canada will make it difficult. Will provincial governments include Aboriginal leaders when they make decisions on the environment and will the pipeline projects and LNG aspirations of certain provinces respect the declaration. Time will tell and there maybe optimism today but tomorrow will be the real test.