On Friday, November 12th, 2010, Canada joined Australia and New Zealand in reversing its decision to officially endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The UNDRIP, recognizing the rights of indigenous people as both individuals and as a collective, was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007, with Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the US the only four dissenting countries to vote against its adoption. In April 2009, Australia reversed their decision and endorsed the UNDRIP, with New Zealand following suit one year later in 2010.
Within Friday’s statement of support, Canada declared:
“In endorsing the Declaration, Canada reaffirms its commitment to build on a positive and productive relationship with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to improve the well-being of Aboriginal Canadians, based on our shared history, respect, and a desire to move forward together.”
Of the four countries, Canada has been one of the most vocal dissenters, taking issue with the Declaration’s inclusion of the rights of Indigenous self-determination, land rights, and the need for ‘free, prior, and informed consent’ before enacting legislation that affects indigenous peoples. Within their statement of support, Canada writes that those concerns are “well known and remain,” but that “we are now confident that Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the Declaration in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and legal framework.”
Canada’s historic decision, while long overdue, is an important step in continuing nation-to-nation relations between settler-state and Indigenous governments. With now three of the four dissenting nations reversing their stance on the UNDRIP, the US stands alone in refusing to endorse the Declaration. President Obama, the move is yours.