Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The Declaration

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“the Declaration”) sets out the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues. It is an expression of the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. It sets out the principles of partnership and mutual respect that should guide the relationship between states and Indigenous peoples. It provides ways to measure and assess the way states are respecting and implementing the rights of Indigenous peoples. The goal of the Declaration is to encourage countries to work alongside Indigenous peoples to solve global issues.

The Declaration is structured as a United Nations resolution,with 23 preambular clauses and 46 articles

  • Articles 1–40 concern particular individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples; many of them include state obligations to protect or fulfil those rights.

  • Article 31 concerns the right to protect cultural heritage as well as manifestations of their cultures including human and genetic resources.

  • Articles 41 and 42 concern the role of the United Nations.

  • Articles 43–45 indicate that the rights in the declaration apply without distinction to indigenous men and women, and that the rights in the Declaration are “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world,” and do not in any way limit greater rights.

  • Article 46 discusses the Declaration’s consistency with other internationally agreed goals, and the framework for interpreting the rights declared within it.

On June 15, 2017, the joint AFN-Canada Memorandum of Understanding on Joint Priorities was signed, committing the Government of Canada to work in partnership on a number of priorities including full and meaningful implementation of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including co-development of a national action plan and discussion of proposals for a federal legislative framework on implementation.

Background

The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13, 2007 and was adopted by the Chiefs-in-Assembly in Resolution No. 37/2007.

Although Canada had been an active participant in the development of the Declaration, it opted to oppose its adoption in 2007, along with three other UN member nations: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. Australia, the United States and New Zealand reversed their earlier opposition to the Declaration. After significant Indigenous advocacy, Canada eventually expressed its intention to take steps to endorse the Declaration. Finally, on November 12, 2010, Canada announced that it had advised the President of the United Nations General Assembly that it was endorsing the Declaration.

The 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples resulted in a concise, action-oriented outcome document prepared on the basis of inclusive and open informal consultations with Member States and Indigenous peoples.

In the document, Member States reiterated their support for the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Canada raised objections to operating paragraphs 3 and 20 of the document which relate to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

On May 10, 2016 at the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Canada announced its adoption of the Declaration without qualification.

In 2017, at the 16th session of the Permanent Forum, Canada made a significant statement by formally abandoning its 2014 statements on paragraphs 3 and 20 of the 2014 Outcome Document from the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. In so doing, Canada is formally on record as being fully committed to the standard of free, prior and informed consent expressed in the UN Declaration.

Contact Policy Staff

Amber Potts
Director


Yancy Craig
Sr. Advisor


Ken Medd
Jr. Policy Analyst


Daniel Wilson
Special Advisor


Chris Barney
Administrative Assistant


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