Every day Indigenous people are forced to justify their existence, to thrive in a system designed to eradicate them, and to enjoy the rights that all people are supposed to share.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
– Article 1, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was passed by the General Assembly of the United Nations, Indigenous Peoples were not invited to participate, and international law concerning collective human rights remained vague and failed to protect the group rights of Indigenous Peoples.
But we now have the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Declaration affirms the pre-existing collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the human rights of Indigenous individuals. It provides a framework for justice and reconciliation, applying existing human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural and social circumstances of Indigenous Peoples.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the most comprehensive international human rights instrument to specifically address Indigenous Peoples’ economic, social, cultural, political, civil, spiritual and environmental rights.
The rights recognized herein constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.
– Article 43, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Declaration is not merely aspirational. The intent that all States should live up to these standards has been repeatedly reaffirmed through subsequent UN General Assembly resolutions. What’s more, Canadian courts have established that declarations and other sources of international human rights law are “relevant and persuasive” sources for interpretation of human rights in Canada’s Constitution.
And yet, Canadian governments continue to violate their international, treaty and constitutional obligations to respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
>> Read Amnesty International’s Open Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
You can be a vocal collaborator in the defence of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. These resources will help to make the work you do to defend Indigenous human rights more articulate, informed and effective:
> Guide for Lawyers Working with Indigenous Peoples
> Understanding and Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
> Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) Fact Sheet
> Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Handbook for Parliamentarians
> Interpreting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples