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Five things to know about UN declaration

Five things to know about UN declaration



OTTAWA — Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett says Canada will be changing its position on the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in New York on Tuesday to remove its status as a permanent objector.


Here are five things to know about the declaration:


1. Its history:


UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations in September 2007 to spell out rights “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” The document was crafted after more than two decades of deliberation.


2. What it says:


One of the central articles in the declaration recognizes the right to self-determination.


It also says indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they “have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired” and that they shall not be forcibly removed.


“No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return,” it said.


3. What the declaration means:


The declaration, which is not considered legally binding, establishes the rights of indigenous peoples around the globe, including on issues such as identity, health, education and language.


In 2007, Canada was one of four countries — Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. were the others — that voted against the declaration when it was passed.


Bennett said Monday that embracing the declaration will help close the gaps on health, education, and economic outcomes.


4. What’s next:


Indigenous groups see Canada’s new approach as a strong signal to the world on human rights and the declaration’s role as an international instrument.


The Assembly of First Nations has stressed the need to fully adopt and implement the declaration as a global tool.


Conservative indigenous affairs critic Cathy McLeod said Monday there are still several unanswered questions as Canada looks to reposition itself on the declaration.


“The Liberal government has not unpacked it — so they have not looked at article by article and what does each article mean and … the issue around free, prior and informed consent,” she said. “They have a huge job ahead.”


5. What it could mean:


Bennett said embracing the declaration provides a way forward on reconciliation efforts in Canada.


Adopting and implementing the document was recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It probed Canada’s residential school legacy and went on to release 94 sweeping calls to action.


The NDP’s intergovernmental indigenous affairs critic, Romeo Saganash, has been pushing to ensure a legislative framework in place moving forward.


He is hopeful the Liberal government will back his private member’s bill that has been praised by members of the indigenous community including former TRC chairman Murray Sinclair.


In a statement last month, the newly appointed senator noted many Canadian laws have been tainted by rationales, terminology and intent that have been
“fundamentally racist.”


“In many ways, Canada waged war against indigenous peoples through law, and many of today’s laws reflect that intent. The Indian Act is the leading example, but it is not alone,” Sinclair said.


“The full adoption and implementation of the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will not undo the war of law, but it will begin to address that war’s legacies.”


By Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press



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