Making UN Declaration law shows Canada’s commitment to Indigenous people

Posted on June 23, 2021 in Equality Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – Opinion/Contributors

The Declaration was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007 as a direct result of the commitment and tenacity of Indigenous rights advocates from Canada and across the globe. It calls on UN member states to recognize, respect and protect Indigenous rights and address the wrongs of the past. Simply put, the declaration affirms the political, social economic, and sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples everywhere.

As a politician, lawyer and teacher in Canada over many years, I have been directly involved in discussions and negotiations to advance the interests of all Indigenous peoples and governments in Canada. My work has given me the chance to see first-hand the challenges, failures and successes of the last 50 years.

It is, above all, the courage, wisdom, and leadership of Indigenous peoples that stand out. “Listen, learn, and act” — these words stay with me. Canada’s ongoing lessons on the path of truth and reconciliation should only reinforce our commitments to human rights and the rule of law both at home and around the world.

Since Canada endorsed the declaration without qualification in 2016, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, together with the Government of Canada, have been guided by the spirit of the declaration. The adoption of laws to strengthen and revitalize Indigenous languages and to protect lands and traditions are examples of Canada’s commitment to implement the declaration.

Bill C-15, also known as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, provides a way to advance and develop this collaboration, which must continue for generations to come.

This act is an important step forward on our journey toward reconciliation. But it is just that — a step. Urgent work lies ahead, including the undoing of centuries of harmful colonial policies and practices. The horrific discovery of unmarked graves of children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, and the reality that more graves will be found, is another reminder of that stark truth. Systemic racism and discrimination experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis continues today and must be confronted head-on.

Bill C-15 requires regular public reporting on progress and accountability measures developed in collaboration with Indigenous peoples. Importantly, the implementation of the declaration is in line with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice.

Royal Assent of this act sends an important signal to all Canadians, as well as the international community, that we are committed to addressing historical injustices and ongoing wrongs, to upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples, and to building a better, more equitable future for all.

The world rightly expects Canada to uphold the international human rights standards affirmed in the declaration and in all the treaties, statutes and laws to which we are a party. We, too, expect no less of ourselves.

Bob Rae is Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations.

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