Canada: Indigenous Nations, organizations and individuals support federal implementation of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples | Open Letter

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LRWC signed an open letter published this week in The Hill Times. The letter was signed by 37 Indigenous Nations and governments and other organizations, and 125 human rights advocates, calling for the timely passage of Bill C-15, the proposed federal legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The open letter coincides with the beginning of Parliamentary hearings on Bill C-15, which was tabled by the Liberal government in early December 2020.

Signatories include the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Circumpolar Council, the Métis National Council, a former Attorney General of Canada, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, a former Premier of the Northwest Territories, the chair of a UN human rights body, philanthropists, and grassroots leaders and activists.

10 March 2021

Open letter in support of Bill C-15

“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.” – Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Principles of Reconciliation, Principle # 1.

Parliament has an historic opportunity to advance reconciliation.

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a consensus global human rights instrument, elaborating minimum standards for the “survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples.” Implementation of these standards is vital to improving the lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world, and to upholding Canada’s solemn and urgent human rights commitments.

Members of the House of Commons and Senate must ensure that Bill C-15, An Act Respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, passes into law before this session of Parliament concludes.

The UN Declaration affirms the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples and the corresponding obligations of States. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was right to put the Declaration at the heart of its vision for reconciliation. The Declaration condemns the racist and colonial doctrines, laws and beliefs that continue to cause so much harm to Indigenous peoples. It also provides the principles and mechanisms needed to redress these harms, as well as safeguards critical to ensuring these violations are never repeated.

Canada has repeatedly committed to implement the UN Declaration. The federal government has even stated this commitment in the preamble to recent Acts of Parliament like the Indigenous Languages Act. Bill C-15 is about putting these commitments into practice.

  • Bill C-15 underlines and reinforces the UN Declaration’s rejection of racism and other forms of discrimination, colonialism, forced assimilation and destruction of culture.
  • The Bill requires the Government of Canada to work with Indigenous peoples to establish priorities and processes for implementing the Declaration’s diverse provisions – and to report annually to Parliament on the progress made.
  • The Bill provides clarity around the fact that the Declaration, like other international human rights instruments, is already being used by courts to interpret Canadian law.
  • In particular, the Bill also requires a collaborative process of legal review and reform to bring federal laws into line with the human rights affirmed in the Declaration.

These are important, practical and achievable measures that deserve the support of all Canadians.

We are mindful that a previous effort to meet Canada’s implementation obligations, Bill C-262, died on the Order Paper after unnecessary delay and obstruction in the Parliamentary process. We do not want any further delays in meeting Canada’s obligations to implement the UN Declaration.

Some Indigenous peoples’ governments and organizations, including some represented in this letter, are proposing or supporting amendments to clarify and strengthen Bill C-15. We believe that the Parliamentary process can accommodate a fulsome consideration of such amendments, while still ensuring that Bill C-15 is adopted before the end of the current session of Parliament.

Concrete measures to implement the UN Declaration in Canadian law and policy are necessary and overdue. Passage of Bill C-15 should be a top priority for all Members of Parliament and Senators.

See full PDF for signatories.