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
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