Canadian legislation to implement UNDRIP “positive and historic” step says Inuit org

Left to right, Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s Justice Minister David Lametti and Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde at a press conference discussing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, on December 3. (Adrian Wyld/The Press Canadian)
The Canadian government’s move to introduce legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is “…a positive and historically significant step forward,” said Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), the national Inuit organization in Canada. 

“ITK has supported the commitment by the Government of Canada to co-develop legislation with Inuit, First Nations and Metis to implement the UN Declaration, and worked with the federal government to positively influence its development,” the organization said in a news release on Thursday.

Bill C-15 was introduced by the Liberal government on December 3. If eventually passed by Parliament, the bill would require the law in Canada to be consistent with the rights set out in UNDRIP, something much needed in Canada, ITK said.

“Federal legislation is necessary to help prevent and end discrimination against Inuit by bringing federal laws and policies into alignment with the interrelated, interdependent, and indivisible rights affirmed by the UN Declaration,” said the organization. 

Inuit, Métis and First Nations in Canada have long be advocating for adoption of UNDRIP.

Implementation of  UNDRIP was called for by both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up to examine the legacy of the residential school system in Canada, and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG), set up to examine the high rates of violence against indigenous women in the country.

The legislation introduced last week would require the government to develop and action plan with Canada’s Indigenous peoples to implement the declaration.

“…a crucial tool for addressing systemic racism”

The Assembly of First Nations, which represents First Nations across the country, including in the northern Canadian territories of Yukon and the Northwest Territories, also called the government’s move last week “…a positive step.”

“The UN Declaration is a crucial tool for addressing systemic racism and closing the gap in quality of life between First Nations and Canadians,” National Chief Perry Bellegard said.  “The new bill provides a much-needed framework to put the Declaration into practice.”

UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. It includes 46 articles that affirm the rights of Indigenous peoples. 

ITK said the implementation of the legislation must include recourse that would allow Indigenous peoples to enforce their rights.

“Legislation that seeks to implement the UN Declaration in the absence of such enforcement mechanisms is little more than a symbolic gesture that is not aligned with international human rights norms and procedures, and further entrenches discrimination by recasting our human rights as aspirational goals,” ITK said. 

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories around the North:

Canada: Indigenous, distinction-based health legislation & moving forward on UNDRIP among Canadian government priorities in throne speech, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Sámi reconciliation process gains final approval in Finland, Yle News

Norway: The Arctic Railway – Building a future or destroying a culture?, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Russia removes critical voices ahead of Arctic Council chairmanship, claims Indigenous peoples expert, The Independent Barents Observer

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying an culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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