Federal engagement on the National Action Plan
On December 10, 2021, the Department of Justice announced funding for Indigenous peoples and organizations to support Indigenous-led consultations on developing a National Action Plan for implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Get details.
AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution on December 9, 2021 which included the call on the Government of Canada to immediately support First Nations, as the rights-holders, in co-developing the National Action Plan called for within two years by the Act. The AFN will continue to advocate for First Nations participation in developing the plan, and reviewing and reforming laws and policies at all government levels.
History of the Act
For many years, First Nations pressed for federal legislation to affirm the rights in the UN Declaration and ensure their implementation through a jointly developed action plan.
Former MP Romeo Saganash’s private Member’s bill to implement the UN Declaration, Bill C-262, was broadly supported by First Nations and passed by the House of Commons in 2018. Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution calling on Parliament to adopt Bill C-262.
When Bill C-262 was blocked by filibuster tactics in the Senate, AFN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed a resolution in December 2019 calling for a government bill modelled on Bill C-262. AFN Resolution 86-2019 states that a government implementation bill must be at least as strong as Bill C-262.
How C-15 was built
Commitments to develop such legislation were made by Canada in the 2019 and 2020 Speeches from the Throne. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti tabled Bill C-15 on December 3, 2020, following a short engagement period in the fall and early winter of 2020.
Bill C-15 was built on the implementation model set out in Romeo Saganash’s private Member’s bill. Discussions over the Bill took place at AFN’s AGA in December 2020 as well as a two-day National First Nations Leadership Forum on Bill C-15 (February 10-11, 2021). Hundreds of First Nations leaders discussed this important legislation from a diversity of perspectives.
C-15 built on the foundation of C-262, while adding greater detail and clarity, as well as a more robust preamble. The AFN’s team of expert legal advisors concluded that Bill C-15 met the mandate to support government legislation that would be at least as strong as Bill C-262. In fact, C-15 is stronger than former Bill C-262 in several ways. Input from the AFN during Parliamentary hearings calling for amendments responsive to First Nations concerns resulted in these improvements.
First Nations National Leadership Forum on Bill C-15, February 10-11, 2021
Federal Legislation to Implement UN Declaration Major Step Toward Addressing Racism and Discrimination in Canada, June 16, 2021
Myths and Misrepresentations on implementing the Declaration
“This legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Right of indigenous Peoples in Canada can be a pathway to reconciliation, guided by our inherent and Treaty rights. Its full implementation will see First Nations rights respected and implemented and is essential to addressing all forms of racism and discrimination in Canada.”
Canadians widely support the UN Declaration
In a NANOS research poll conducted for the Assembly of First Nations in April 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, 80 percent of Canadians said that Indigenous issues should be an important priority for the Government of Canada.
In the same poll, two-thirds of Canadians expressed support for adoption of federal implementation legislation.
Chiefs-in-Assembly have passed many resolutions to support all First Nations in work to ensure the full and meaningful implementation of the UN Declaration.
- AFN Resolution 86-2019: Support for Federal Legislation to Create a Framework to Implement the UN Declaration
- 97/2017: Support for Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration
- 28/2016: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 10 Year Anniversary
- 128/2016: UN Declaration Legislative Framework and Interpretation of Canadian Laws
- 01/2015: Support for the Full Implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Call to Action
- 38/2015: Canada’s Obligation to Develop with Indigenous Peoples a National Action Plan for Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- 37-2007: Ratifying the Declaration
AFN Resolution 86-2019
Support for Federal Legislation to Create a Framework to Implement the UN Declaration
AFN Resolution 97-2017
Support for Bill C-262
About the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The UN Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007.
The Declaration was intended to close a critical gap in the international human rights system by explicitly affirming a wide range of universal human rights that have, in practice, been widely denied to Indigenous peoples. This includes the right to self-determination and collective rights to lands, territories and resources, culture, and identity.
The Declaration is especially important because Indigenous peoples were active partners in its drafting. This included First Nations leaders and grassroots advocates.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) called the Declaration “the framework for reconciliation.” Canada embraced all of the TRC Calls to Action. Both the TRC and the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls called for Canada to implement the Declaration through law, policy, and action. States and Indigenous peoples from around the world worked together for decades to achieve this success. First Nations played a key role. Many of our people are acknowledged globally as international law experts.
The UN Declaration does not create new rights. It affirms pre-existing or inherent rights of Indigenous peoples. These human rights include the collective right to self-determination. The UN Declaration sets out minimum standards that are necessary to uphold these rights and ensure ‘the dignity, survival and well-being’ of Indigenous peoples around the world.
Canada is now part of numerous consensus resolutions of the United Nations affirming the UN Declaration and calling on states to work with Indigenous peoples to develop national action plans and other measures to support implementation.
Providing a framework for reconciliation
In addition, Call to Action 43 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) calls on federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments to fully adopt and implement the UN Declaration as the framework for reconciliation. Call to Action 44 calls on Canada to develop a national action plan and other measures to support the implementation of the UN Declaration. The federal government has expressed its support for all 94 Calls to Action of the TRC.
The National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also called for implementation of the UN Declaration as part of a rights-based response to the horrific violence faced by First Nations women, girls and two spirit persons.
Every day, First Nations are exercising rights affirmed in the UN Declaration, including the right to self-determination. First Nations also frequently reference the UN Declaration in decision-making, policy statements and in exercising inherent and Treaty rights.
The UN Declaration already has legal effect in Canada. The AFN has used the UN Declaration in litigation to ensure that domestic laws are interpreted consistently with the provisions of the Declaration. In critical cases concerning issues such as services to First Nations, Canadian courts and tribunals have looked at Canada’s Constitutional obligations and the interpretation of other domestic laws through the lens of the UN Declaration.
“The passing of Bill C-15, now the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, means we now have a process that requires laws and policies to change so that First Nations rights are respected and implemented. First Nations will determine their own priorities and how they wish to work with Canada. And I urge all governments in Canada to work to ensure full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
- Information and Discussion Guide-Bill C-15
- The UN Declaration and the “In Plain Sight” Report: Addressing Indigenous-Specific Racism and Discrimination in B.C. Health Care (External Resource: Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at UBC)
- C-15 Backgrounder
- C-15 FAQ
- “UN Declaration and Territorial Integrity”
- AFN UN Declaration Implementation Paper
- Bill C-15 – Legal Significance of the Preamble
- Non-Derogation Clause in Bill C-15 – A Brief Analysis
- Bill C-15 – Sustainable Development and Climate Change
- National Chief Bulletin – Federal Tabling of Bill C-15 (December 3, 2020)
- Bill C-15 (English-French)
- National Chief Bulletin – Federal Engagement Process 2020 (November 16, 2020)
- National Chief Speaking Points to Ad Hoc Table of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers and Indigenous Leaders November 12, 2020 – United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- National Chief Bulletin September 22 – Federal Engagement Process 2020
- UN Declaration Federal Engagement Meeting Schedule (as of November 12, 2020)
- Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Myths and Misrepresentations
- AFN Resource Paper: Introduction to the UN Declaration
- AFN Resource Paper: Implementing the UN Declaration
- National Chief Presentation to INAN Committee on C-262-March 2018
- UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Paul Joffe. 2020. “Self Determination and Territorial Integrity”
- Fact Sheet on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (updated June 2018)
- Fact Sheet on Free, Prior and Informed Consent
- National Chief Bellegarde to MP Romeo Saganash – March 10, 2015
- National Chief Bellegarde to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – July 28, 2016
- National Chief Bellegarde to Minister of Justice, Jody Wilson-Raybould – September 20, 2017
- National Chief Bellegarde to all MPs – November 30, 2017
- National Chief Bellegarde to all Senators – November 30, 2017
- National Chief Bellegarde to MPs – February 5, 2018
- National Chief Bellegarde to the Senate – June 4, 2018
“Advancing reconciliation requires bringing Canadian law and policy into line with international human rights law, which has condemned doctrines of superiority, including discovery and terra nullius, as colonial and racist. Yet the racist assumptions and impacts of these doctrines live on in aspects of Canadian law and policy. They are evident in underlying assumptions that assume First Nations are “claimants” in our own lands and that treat First Nations as somehow lacking sovereignty. The assumptions and impacts of these racist doctrines must be uprooted. The path forward will require Canada to acknowledge the truth of our pre-existing and continuing sovereignty as self-determining peoples.”
Commentary on UN Declaration Implementation
- National Chief Bellegarde: “A Vote for Bill C-262 is a Vote for Reconciliation and Human Rights”
- AFN National Chief Urges Canada to Pass UNDRIP Legislation
- National Chief Bellegarde: The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and FPIC: Canada is Overdue on Implementation
- Grand Chiefs Littlechild and John: Ten years later – we need collaboration to fulfil the promise of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples
- Joffe and Lightfoot: Legislative Framework Essential for UN Declaration
- “AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde Welcomes the Government’s Support for Bill C-262 to Implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (Indian Time, November 30, 2017)
- Statement – “Progress is happening” Canada’s human rights watchdog reacts to government announcement to support full implementation of UNDRIP
- Douglas White: Indigenous rights are nothing to fear
- Roshan Danesh: “Rhetoric matters when discussing First Nations’ role in resource decisions”
“The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.” (Principles of Reconciliation, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada)
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