International Law & Indigenous Peoples Rights
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 after a long drafting and revision process which began in 1985. The UN Declaration was created after the release of a report by José R. Martinez Cobo on the problem of discrimination, marginalization and exploitation suffered by Indigenous peoples worldwide. With the involvement of many States and UN bodies in the drafting process, and Indigenous peoples in the negotiations, the final text of the UN Declaration ultimately addressed rights that already existed in international law, yet were often denied to Indigenous peoples.
This webpage seeks to provide information on the UN Declaration to raise awareness among Aboriginal communities and their leaders, the legal community, academics and broader Canadian society of the standards set out in the UN Declaration and how to apply these standards to potentially bring about social and legal change in Canada.
Understanding and Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Introductory Handbook
The IBA produced a handbook designed to give a basic understanding of the history of the UN Declaration and how it applies in Canada. The handbook gives an introduction of some broad themes of rights recognized and protected in the UN Declaration, a basic description and analysis of what these rights can mean for Aboriginal people, and examples where various provisions of the UN Declaration have been implemented around the world.
This article, written by Brenda L. Gunn, discusses Canada’s announcement in 2010 that it would endorse the UN Declaration, and explores the significance of the Un Declaration for Indigenous people, communities and lawyers within Canada.
This is an English PDF copy of the pocket size copy of the UN Declaration. Hardcopies of the pocket size and poster size version of the UN Declaration are available by contacting Jennifer Preston [firstname.lastname@example.org].
In the fall of 2011, the IBA hosted five half-day (approximately 3 hour) training workshops on the UN Declaration. These workshops were set to be carried out in four different regional zones, including the Atlantic, Ontario, Prairie, and British Columbia regions. The cities that were ultimately chosen were: Ottawa, ON (September 29), Halifax, NS (October 25), Winnipeg, MB (October 13 & November 3) and Vancouver, BC (November 10). The workshops were developed to be geared at lawyers, educators, Aboriginal community leaders and human rights workers. The workshops used a combination of lecture and discussion based methods to provide detailed information on the UN Declaration and the rights protected therein. They also discussed how the UN Declaration fit within international and Canadian law and how to start using the UN Declaration in the participants’ own work.
This is the power point presentation from the September 29, 2011 workshop held in Ottawa, Ontario. It gives an introduction to international law, lists the relevant international instruments and bodies, discusses application of international law in Canada, and discusses some broad themes recognized and protected by the UN Declaration.
This link provides access to an interactive webinar on the UN Declaration on August 8, 2011. The Assembly of First Nations, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Amnesty International Canada and Canadian Friends Service Committee all partnered to present this web-based seminar.
The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’ mandate is to assist the Human Rights Council by providing thematic expertise and by making proposals to the Council pertaining to the rights of Indigenous peoples. The EMRIP has been currently working on possible appropriate measures and implementation strategies in order to attain the goals of the UN Declaration.
The Special Rapporteur works in close cooperation with the UNPFII. In fulfilling his mandate, the Special Rapporteur promotes good practices to implement international standards concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples (including the UN Declaration), reports of overall human rights situations of Indigenous peoples, addresses specific cases of alleged violations of the rights of Indigenous peoples, and contributes to studies on the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is the UN’s central coordinating body for matters relating to the concerns and rights of the world’s Indigenous peoples. It is an advisory body to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and has a mandate to discuss Indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights. The UNPFII has discussed several themes relating to the UN Declaration in its work.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)
The following links on AANDC provide information on Canada’s position from the Draft UN Declarationleading up to Canada’s endorsement of the UN Declaration.
- Canada’s Statement of Support on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Update Paper: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- Canada’s Position: United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- This website operates as a documentation and information center. It originates in Switzerland, and offers a substantial amount of information, past and present, on Indigenous Peoples rights at the International level.
- This website focuses on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, specifically on the Rights of the Indigenous Sami Peoples. It originates in Norway, and offers short articles and updates on current events that involve the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- The Assembly of First Nations has dedicated a page to the implementation of the UN Declaration, which includes National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo’s communiqué on Canada’s endorsement, a factsheet, flyer, backgrounder and press release.
- The Canadian Friends Service Committee has dedicated a page to the UN Declaration, which provides a number of links to resources on the UN Declaration, including factsheets, joint statements and letters, and articles relating to the UN Declaration.
- IWGIA operates to support Indigenous Peoples’ human rights by collaborating with Indigenous Peoples’ organizations, publishing works about issues affecting Indigenous Peoples and working to ensure that the situations of Indigenous Peoples do not go unheard. In 2009, they published a very informative book that starts with the development of the UN Declaration and concludes with methods of its implementation.
Other International Work
In 1970, Canada ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) (text available at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/cerd.htm). This human rights treaty obligates Canada to “condemn racial discrimination and undertake to pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and promoting understanding among all races.” In particular, Canada must “undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, colour, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law.”
As part of its obligations under ICERD, Canada must report every 4 years indicating the measures they are taking to eliminate racial discrimination. In February, 2012 the Indigenous Bar Association attended Canada’s review before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Canada’s Report to CERD & CERD’s concluding observations: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds80.htm