Briefing paper

New tools for reconciliation: legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Aboriginal reconciliation First Nations people Indigenous nations Canada

The 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) aims at repairing the ongoing consequences of the historical denial of the fundamental rights of Indigenous peoples. Two federal environmental laws adopted in 2019 referenced UNDRIP, but reflect a more cautious approach. Ottawa has said it will introduce UNDRIP legislation by the end of 2020. It will be an important testing ground for Canada’s commitment to a new relationship with Indigenous Canadians. This paper assesses the meaningful changes, providing new, practical, on-the-ground tools that can help build a broad understanding among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.

Key Findings:

  • Implementation of the UN declaration is an important testing ground for governments’ commitment to a new relationship with Indigenous Canadians. It may give rise to new, practical tools for sustainable reconciliation, such as innovative forms of governance.
  • The changes to the federal environmental assessment process create new opportunities for engagement with Indigenous groups potentially affected by government decisions.
  • Agreements with Indigenous nations signed over the past three years have, accordingly, moved incrementally toward much greater shared decision-making. In a few agreements, BC has opened the door to a limited Indigenous veto over certain issues within particular geographic areas.

Governments should implement the declaration in ways that foster a broad, national understanding of the place of Indigenous peoples in Canada’s economic development and governance. Only then will implementation of UNDRIP prove to be a pivot point for Canada.

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IRPP Insight 32