The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The Declaration in Action
Simply put, the Declaration affirms that the human rights of Indigenous peoples matter. Together, First Nations, Inuit and Métis and the Government of Canada are already working to implement the Declaration – to put it into action. While Bill C-15 aims to create a lasting framework to advance federal implementation of the Declaration in collaboration with Indigenous peoples, there are already initiatives underway that are guided by the spirit of the Declaration.
Department of Justice
Revitalizing Indigenous laws and improving access to justice
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“In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”
– Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Call to Action 50
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sets out the right of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their distinct legal institutions. Indigenous peoples in Canada have unique laws and legal traditions. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) found that, as a result of Indian Residential Schools and other colonial policies, Indigenous survivors and communities lost their connection to these unique laws and legal traditions.
Budget 2019 responded to the TRC’s Call to Action 50 to support Indigenous law initiatives across Canada through the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program. This funding supports Indigenous institutions and communities in reviving First Nation, Inuit, and Métis laws and legal traditions. Through the support of revitalization projects, Indigenous peoples can increase understanding of Indigenous laws within their communities and for all Canadians.
Indigenous communities and organizations, with support from the Government of Canada through Budget 2019, are responding to TRC Call to Action 50. In May 2021, The Department of Justice Canada has announced funding for 21 projects that will support renewed legal relationships with Indigenous peoples that will advance the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws. From coast-to-coast, these projects will focus on research activities, workshops and other initiatives that best fit the needs of each diverse community. Some projects will involve partnerships with law schools and other legal stakeholders.
The revitalization of Indigenous legal systems is key in advancing reconciliation and supporting self-determination, key theme of the Declaration. It will also encourage dialogue on justice issues, such as access to justice and administration of justice.
Protecting lands and traditions in the Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve© Iris Catholique
The Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve was created in 2019 through a partnership between Parks Canada, the Government of Northwest Territories, the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Northwest Territory Métis Nation, Deninu K’ue First Nation, and with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. By working together, they are protecting traditions, harvesting practices and the lands and waters of Thaidene Nene.
Indigenous peoples’ right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources is a key theme affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Thaidene Nene, meaning ‘Land of the Ancestors’ in Dënesųłiné Yati, is located at the eastern end of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories and consists of Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve, Thaidene Nëné Wildlife Conservation Area and Thaidene Nëné Territorial Protected Area. These areas, designated as a whole as an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area by the Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation, added 26,000 square kilometres of protected area in the Northwest Territories. It is a culturally rich area with healthy ecosystems that falls within the traditional territory of the Akaitcho Dene First Nations and the Northwest Territory Métis Nation.
The area is critical to protecting biological diversity, watersheds, connectivity for the migration of key species, such as caribou, and the boreal forest ecosystems. The protection of the area is also critical to Indigenous communities as their cultures and traditions have been rooted in the lands and waters of Thaidene Nene for generations.
The Government of Canada first proposed this national park in the late 1960s; however, it was not pursued at the time. In 2000, Chief Felix Lockhart of Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation approached the Government of Canada to renew discussions about establishing Thaidene Nene as a national park to protect a portion of their traditional territory from development. After many years of negotiations, agreements were reached with the Łutsël K’e Dene First Nation, Northwest Territory Métis Nation, Deninu K’ue First Nation, and with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and in 2019, Thaidene Nene National Park Reserve was created.
Indigenous Services Canada
Reducing the number of Indigenous children in care
Indigenous Peoples, provinces and territories, and the Government of Canada are working together to reduce the number of Indigenous children and youth in care. Following extensive engagement with partners, the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families came into force on January 1, 2020. This legislation also contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and advances the right of self-determination of Indigenous Peoples across Canada. Learn more about the Act on the Indigenous Services Canada website.
Natural Resources Canada
Solar energy moves Indigenous communities toward a renewable futurecourtesy of Three Nations Energy & Greenplanet Energy Analytics
Until recently, Fort Chipewyan in northeast Alberta was powered entirely by diesel generators. Diesel has to be trucked in over winter roads, only open a few months a year. In response, Three Nations Energy GP Inc. (3NE), partnered with ATCO, and supported by the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta to build a 2.42 megawatts solar energy and energy storage project solar projects to reduce their dependency on diesel.
3NE is an equal partnership between three Indigenous communities - the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation, and Fort Chipewyan Métis Association. They initially came together to own and operate the solar farm in Fort Chipewyan. However, now they continuously work on their mutual goal of bringing clean, low carbon and affordable energy projects to their communities. They also created a strong vehicle for Indigenous ownership and operation of green energy solutions so that their communities can become leaders in a climate friendly economy.
This project will compliment an already existing 400-kilowatt installation, making it the largest off-grid solar project in Canada. In addition, a battery storage system and micro-grid control system will improve the reliability of the grid. The combination of projects will displace 800,000 litres of diesel fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 2,000 tonnes per year. It will also result in 25 percent of the electricity generation for the community coming from renewable sources.courtesy of Three Nations Energy & Greenplanet Energy Analytics
Support for this project came through the Clean Energy for Rural and Remote Communities (CERRC) program. CERRC is advancing reconciliation with Indigenous communities in the clean energy space by providing better access to capital for projects and investing in capacity to position Indigenous Peoples as clean energy and climate leaders. Specifically, the program supports projects that demonstrate and deploy renewable energy technologies, implement energy efficiency solutions, as well as build community skills and capacity in rural and remote communities, particularly Indigenous communities.
This program aligns with the rights affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It supports Indigenous communities in the maintenance and development of their economic systems and institutions, as well as the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources.
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Collaboration to recover the Southern Mountain Caribou populationMark Bradley
Since 2012, the Saulteau First Nations and West Moberly First Nations have been leading recovery actions for the Central Group of Southern Mountain Caribou in British Columbia in collaboration with the provincial government and other stakeholders, including by self-imposing a voluntary moratorium on hunting caribou, establishing and managing a maternal pen, implementing traditional predator-management programs, undertaking habitat mapping and restoration, and carrying out other conservation activities. These Indigenous-led activities are credited with increasing the Klinse-za (Moberly) herd from a low of just 16 animals to over 100 in the past 7 years – the most successful caribou recovery program of its kind in North America.
On February 21, 2020, after two years of discussions and negotiations, the four governments signed a historic new Intergovernmental Partnership Agreement for the Conservation of the Central Group of the Southern Mountain Caribou. This Partnership Agreement recognizes the leadership shown by the First Nations, and the essential role of Indigenous peoples in the conservation of wildlife.Mark Bradley
The recovery measures in the Partnership Agreement include commitments to protect, and restore about 700,000 hectares of caribou habitat, to develop an Indigenous guardians program, and to increase the participation of the First Nations in land management processes. All with the intention of helping caribou populations in northeast British Columbia recover to self-sustaining levels that support traditional Indigenous harvesting activities, consistent with Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Partnership Agreement can be found on the Species at Risk Public Registry.
The Partnership Agreement also confirms the commitments made by Canada and British Columbia to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Agreement aligns with the Declaration in the way it supports Indigenous cultural rights, self-government, and land management activities.
Working together to strengthen, revitalize and protect Indigenous languagesAnishinaabe Elder at Pukaskwa National Park. Photo taken by Willy Waterton. Copyright: Parks Canada
In Canada, Indigenous languages have faced increasingly challenging realities, with some on the verge of extinction. Important actions are needed to be undertaken in order to prevent this outcome. Since 2017, the Department of Canadian Heritage has been working with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation to develop the Indigenous Languages Act (the Act) to support Indigenous communities to ensure their languages grow and prosper for years to come.
On June 21, 2019, the Act received Royal Assent. The adoption of this legislation demonstrates the federal government’s commitment to support the self-determining efforts of Indigenous peoples to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and strengthen Indigenous languages in Canada. The Government of Canada continues to work with Indigenous peoples on the implementation of the Act.
In the 2019 budget, the Government of Canada made an historic investment to support the implementation of the Act. As a result of this significant investment, we are seeing the largest growth in Indigenous language support in program history, with a majority of these funds going directly to Indigenous communities and organizations to support their unique language needs.
In 2020, Canadian Heritage in partnership with National Indigenous partners conducted a series of virtual consultation sessions across Canada, on the implementation of the Act. These consultations focused on the role of the Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages and the future Indigenous Languages Funding Model. The input gathered during these consultations will ensure government decisions are directly informed by Indigenous perspectives to establish measures to facilitate the provision of adequate, sustainable and long-term funding. The Reports for the consultation sessions are available online.
In January 2021, Canadian Heritage hosted an Indigenous Languages Symposium – Building on Strengths and Successes. The Symposium provided an opportunity for the federal government and Indigenous peoples, as well as other stakeholders, to share best practices and discuss their perspectives.
The Indigenous Languages Act contributes to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as it relates to Indigenous Languages. The Act is enduring, its enactment will evolve in response to the needs of Indigenous peoples. The Government of Canada will continue to approach this important legislation in a spirit of partnership and co-developed manner with Indigenous partners.
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