Ottawa Citizen – Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild was Co-Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Grand Chief Edward John is a member of the Executive of the First Nations Summit
This week, Indigenous Peoples and national governments from around the world will meet at the United Nations in New York to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 13, 2007 adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A year ago, when the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last met, Canada’s minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs told the meeting that Canada was committed to the full implementation of the UN Declaration in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. Substantive actions, including the full and effective collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to fulfil this promise, have yet to materialize.
The Declaration sets out a concrete roadmap to begin addressing the lasting harms of past human rights abuses and prevent their repetition in the present and future. This is why the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called on federal and other governments to adopt the Declaration as “the framework for reconciliation.”
The Trudeau government put the Declaration at the heart of its pledge to forge a new relationship with Indigenous Peoples, and has identified implementation of the Declaration as a top priority and a “whole of government” commitment, as well as expressing, on behalf of Canada, its unqualified support for the UN Declaration.
The government has recently established a Working Group of Ministers to review federal laws, policies and practices to ensure consistency with the Declaration. This positive measure is crucial, but the government needs to act now to ensure substantive collaboration and coordinated planning with Indigenous Peoples.
The TRC called for a coordinated and collaborative approach to implementation through a national action plan developed with Indigenous Peoples. The commitment to develop this national action plan needs to be acted on. We are still on hold and waiting for processes to engage on the promised reviews. Neither the federal government nor the six ministers alone can develop such a plan.
Meanwhile, major development projects continue to be approved without meeting the criteria for sustainable development. Indigenous opposition to projects continue.
Last year, NDP MP Romeo Saganash introduced a private members bill, C-262, to repudiate colonialism and discriminatory doctrines of superiority, and establish a legislative framework for implementation of the UN Declaration. Indigenous Peoples maintain that constructive actions such as a legislative framework or frameworks are crucial to ensure future governments do not reverse any positive advances that are made in implementation of the Declaration.
We urge the Trudeau government to work in cooperation and full partnership with Indigenous Peoples, and in a non-partisan way, to discuss options for a legislative framework or frameworks to implement the Declaration. The intention such as that in Bill C-262 to repudiate colonialism, the doctrines of superiority and discovery and legislative frameworks to implement the Declaration are necessary.
Increased dialogue and partnership are clearly needed at this time. A growing number of Indigenous, human rights and industry organizations are ready to engage and work together on implementation of the Declaration.
In all his mandate letters to ministers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples.” This is positive. However, constructive steps and the full and effective partnership and working relationship are necessary. No more time should be allowed to pass without significant collaborative action.
Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild was Co-Commissioner for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Grand Chief Edward John is a member of the Executive of the First Nations Summit. Both participated in the development of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and both have served as North American Representatives to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.