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The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    August 16, 2018
    UN Declaration booklets published by the Coalition

    In recent months, the federal government and a number of provinces and territories have made significant, welcome commitments to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

    The House of Commons has now passed Bill C-262, which would establish a legislative framework requiring the federal government to work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples to fully implement the Declaration. Bill C-262 will be debated in the Senate this Fall.

    With these important developments, the UN Declaration has become the subject of a welcome focus of public policy discussion. Unfortunately, opposition by the previous governing party left a legacy of confusion and misinformation about the Declaration and these misrepresentations continue to be repeated.

    July 26, 2018

    “A B.C. government, led by me, will officially adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples…I will work with you to align the actions of my government with the Declaration.” – NDP leader John Horgan, prior to the 2017 provincial election

    “It is well established that statements by elected representatives do not fetter decision makers, nor do political speeches constitute legally enforceable promises against the Crown.” – the Government of British Columbia’s written submission to the Site C injunction hearing

    BC Premier John Horgan has said many fine words about upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples. He made these promises while running for office and he has repeatedly affirmed them since becoming Premier. But in the most significant test to date of the veracity and integrity of these commitments -- the arguments now being made in front of the crucially important Site C injunction hearing -- Premier Horgan’s government has done the very opposite of what it promised.

    May 28, 2018

    Open Letter to All Members of Parliament

    Bill C-262 provides principled framework for implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Our nations and organizations are urging all Members of Parliament to support Bill C-262 in a non-partisan manner when it comes to a vote at third reading.

    The government of Stephen Harper endorsed the UN Declaration in 2010 and expressed “confidence” that the Declaration is consistent with Canada’s Constitution and legal framework. The government of Justin Trudeau has repeatedly pledged to fully implement the Declaration. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose Calls to Action have been widely endorsed by a wide range of political parties at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, urged all governments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as ‘the framework for reconciliation’ in Canada.  

    May 14, 2018

    UPDATED July 10, 2018

    "To our allies, we say, 'keep fighting.' And to those of you just learning about this ruinous decision, don't stand for it...Call, meet, write, email, tweet." - Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River First Nations

    We're at a crucial turning point for the future of the Peace River Valley.

    On December 11, BC Premier John Horgan announced that construction of the Site C dam would continue despite his previous acknowledgement that "constitutional rights to practice hunting and fishing" would be "violated by this dam."

    Critically, however, the fight to protect the Peace Valley is not over. The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations have take the federal and provincial governments to court, alleging that flooding the Peace Valley would violate their Constitutionally-protect rights to hunt and fish as guaranteed by their Treaty. 

    Now, in an amazing victory of principle over politics, the federal government has told the court that it will not oppose the First Nations request to put the project on pause until the court case has been resolved.

    April 26, 2018

    "People shouldn’t have to go to court to claim their rights" – federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, speaking at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, April 2018

    In the coming weeks, two governments that have repeatedly promised to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples will be in court to defend a massively destructive resource development project that they approved without ever once considering whether it would violate Canada’s Treaty obligations to the affected First Nations.

    The West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are asking the court to halt construction of the Site C dam which would flood more than 100 km of the Peace River Valley and its tributaries. 

    The environmental assessment of the project found that its impacts on First Nations cultural sites and way of life would be serve, permanent and irreversible. The United Nations’ top anti-racism body, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, has called for a halt to the project as a violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples.

    October 27, 2017

    One of the first acts of the recently elected provincial government of British Columbia was to order an independent review of the economic case for and against the massive Site C hydro-electric project. After releasing an interim report in September, the BC Utilities Commission held a series of public meetings across the province. The final report is due November 1 after which the decision on the fate of the project - and the Peace River Valley - will rest with the provincial government.

    Gary Ockenden, the Vice President of Amnesty International Canada shared this note from a hearing that he attended:

    The Chair and three Commissioners of the BC Utilities Commission came to Nelson, BC on September 26th and held a public hearing on the Site C project. I was fortunate enough to get a five minute slot to present to them as a BC ratepayer.

    September 29, 2017

    It’s been a decade since the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It has been more than three decades since the process to develop this human rights instrument first began.

    During this time, Canada’s position on the Declaration has changed repeatedly with the election of new governments and even with changes in Cabinet.

    Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the federal government has now made numerous, welcome commitments to respect and uphold the UN Declaration.

    Words alone, however, are not enough.

    Concrete implementation of the Declaration is overdue. This requires the federal government to work with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples to carry out concrete reforms to Canada’s laws and the government’s programmes and priorities.

    Critically, the commitment to uphold the Declaration, and the process for achieving this objective, need to be enshrined in national legislation so that it is not readily abandoned on the whim of politicians.

    September 21, 2017

    “Canada is built on the ancestral land of Indigenous peoples but regrettably it is also a country that came into being without the meaningful participation of those who were there first. And even where Treaties had been formed to provide a basis for proper relations, they have not been fully honoured or implemented.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the UN General Assembly the day after an interim report on the Site C dam was released

    “The joint federal-provincial environmental impact assessment of the Site C dam was clear that flooding the Peace River Valley would destroy hundreds of graves and other cultural sites and cause severe, permanent and irreversible harm to the natural environment on which we rely. All this was pushed aside in the rush to build Site C.” Prophet River Chief Lynette Tsakoza responding to the Site C interim report

    Three years ago, the federal government approved one of the most environmentally destructive resource development projects in Canada, over the opposition of profoundly affected First Nations.

    September 13, 2017

    "The tragic and brutal story of what happened to us, especially at the hands of governments is well-known.... But today, with the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly, we see the opportunity for a new beginning, for another kind of relationship with States in North America and indeed throughout the world." - Statement to the United Nations made 10 years ago by Indigenous representatives from North America when the UN Declaration was adopted. 

     

    The adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a landmark moment in the advancement of global human rights protections.

    For decades, Indigenous peoples had been working within the United Nations and regional human rights bodies such as the Inter-American Commission in an effort to ensure that existing, universal human rights standards were understood and applied in ways that would make a real difference in addressing the many profound abuses faced by Indigenous peoples around the world.

    September 12, 2017

    "Let them drink the water we have to drink" - Loydi Macedo, Indigenous community of Cuninico, Peru

    Today, as we mark the 10th anniversary of the global adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International is releasing a devastating new report documenting the callous failure of government authorities in Peru to address the urgent health needs of Indigenous peoples in that country who live in the midst of intensive mining and oil and gas development.

    The human rights concerns set out in this report – the refusal to listen to Indigenous women’s concerns about the safety of the water on which they depend, the reluctance to investigate and hold companies responsible for the contamination of Indigenous lands and waters, and the failure to provide culturally-appropriate health care to those in greatest need – are all too familiar.

    July 06, 2017

    "We will continue to bring unrelenting opposition to a project that can only be described as an unqualified disaster." -Chief Lynette Tsakoza, Prophet River responding to Supreme Court of Canada ruling closing off one part to justice in the Site C struggle

    Whatever your feelings about British Columbia’s Site C dam, whether you think the hydro-electric megaproject is needed or if you think there are better ways to invest in the province’s future, it should be clear that an unacceptable injustice is taking place.

    The 100 km of the Peace River and its tributaries that will be flooded by Site C are part of the territory of Treaty 8, an historic Treaty between First Nations and Canada. Like other Treaties, the rights protected under Treaty 8 are recognized and affirmed in the Canadian Constitution. In other words, they are part of the highest law of the land.

    Yet, the federal and provincial governments openly admit that they approved the Site C dam without ever considering whether the “severe”, “permanent” and “irreversible” harms identified by their own environmental assessment would violate Treaty 8.

    April 27, 2017

    UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

    Sixteenth Session

    Thursday April 27, 2017

    Agenda Item 4

    Speaker: Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild

    Joint Statement by: Confederacy of Treaty No. 6; Amnesty International; Assembly of First Nations; Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et Labrador/Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); First Nations Summit; BC Assembly of First Nations; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Union of BC Indian Chiefs; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

     

    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples constitutes a social, political, legal, and historical reality. The Declaration recognizes that “respect for indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditional practices contributes to sustainable and equitable development and proper management of the environment”.

    The new American Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in June 2015, affirms in Article XIX:

    April 25, 2017

    UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

    Sixteenth Session

    Tuesday April 25, 2017

    Agenda Item 8

     

    Joint Statement of: Assembly of First Nations; Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et Labrador/Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador First Nations; Amnesty International; Confederacy of Treaty No. 6; First Nations Summit; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); BC Assembly of First Nations; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Union of BC Indian Chiefs; Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives.

    April 24, 2017

    Almost 10 years have passed since the United Nations voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a global standard of human rights protection.

    There can be no doubt that the adoption of the Declaration was a landmark moment for human rights globally and a triumph for the Indigenous peoples’ movement in particular.

    Before the Declaration could be adopted, Indigenous peoples had to prevail over the reluctance, resistance and sometimes outright hostility of some states.

    In doing so, Indigenous peoples were able to advance a vital global human rights instrument, one that repudiates centuries of violence, dispossession and marginalization and closes the gaps in rights protection available to the societies, families and individuals who must contend daily with the legacy of those abuses and with new manifestations of permutations of the same racism and discrimination.

    November 28, 2016
    Jerry holding a sign saying 'Save the Arctic, It's my home'

    It’s been almost 20 years since the Supreme Court of Canada first ruled that the Constitutional protection of Indigenous rights requires governments to consult in “good faith” with Indigenous peoples so that their concerns can be “substantially” addressed before decisions are made that could affect their rights.

    While the federal, provincial and territorial governments now all accept that there is a duty to consult, their interpretation of this duty is often so narrow and impoverished that serious concerns over the impact of planned development are simply ignored. Rather than being a source of reconciliation and rights protection as intended in decisions like Delgamuukw (1997) and Haida Nation (2004), the duty to consult as applied by governments in Canada has been a source of ongoing conflict with projects like Northern Gateway and the Site C dam all ending up in court at tremendous cost to Indigenous peoples.

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