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What is UNDRIP?

In the midst of the current Wet’suwet’en protests and rail blockades, there has been discussion in the media, and on social media, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Unfortunately, there have also been misunderstandings about what UNDRIP is.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 with 144 states in favour and 4 against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States). Although it is considered the most comprehensive instrument for addressing the rights of Indigenous peoples, as a declaration it is a non-binding agreement.

As well, UNDRIP does not create new rights, but is an interpretation of the rights already contained within other international human rights instruments as they apply particularly to Indigenous peoples and individuals. UNDRIP covers areas such as cultural rights and identity, self-determination, land rights, and rights to education, health, employment, and language.

WFMC’s project on Canada’s human rights commitments includes summaries of international human rights instruments, including UNDRIP.

In 2010, Canada endorsed UNDRIP as an “aspirational” document, noting that Canada still had concerns, including the “provisions dealing with lands, territories and resources; free, prior and informed consent when used as a veto; self-government without recognition of the importance of negotiations.”

In May 2016, Canada officially removed its objector status to UNDRIP and a private member’s bill was introduced by then-Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash to harmonize Canadian laws with UNDRIP. That bill died in the Senate in 2019 ahead of the federal election.

During the federal election, the Liberal Party again pledged to introduce legislation to implement UNDRIP. That legislation was delayed earlier this month.

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