UN Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a Declaration of the agreement made between the governments of UN Member States, working with global representatives of Indigenous communities, that establishes universal standards of treatment that should apply with respect to all Indigenous peoples. The impetus to craft the Declaration was a result of the need to correct a shameful record of historical and ongoing violence and abuse suffered by Indigenous individuals and populations around the world.
The United Nations had already adopted other Declarations and Conventions that protect a range of universal human rights, but a document that addressed the special and unique needs of Indigenous peoples was missing. UNDRIP does not create new rights but rather elaborates on existing human rights standards through an Indigenous lens.
Work began to draft this document in 1985, but it took over 20 years to complete an accepted UNDRIP text. It was officially adopted (approved) by the UN General Assembly on 13 September 2007. In 2007, Canada voted against the adoption of the Declaration (as did Australia, New Zealand and the United States). Canada finally became a signatory (supporter) State in 2016.
The Declaration is not a binding commitment (as opposed to a Convention, which would be). This means it is not legally binding and does not require a signatory country to implement its principles. Many countries, however, go beyond aspirational obligations and adopt it as a basis for national law. That is a work in progress in Canada.
UNDRIP consists of 46 Articles that focus on a range of issues such as culture and identity, religion, language, health, education, community, and justice. The Declaration also describes how governments can protect these rights and collaborate with other levels of leadership to ensure the protection of Indigenous rights.
In 2018-2019 UNA-Canada developed and implemented a youth-engagement initiative to strengthen active and inclusive citizenship in Canada. The Youth Navigate the Truth & Reconciliation Calls to Action (YNTRC) had a specific objective of increasing understanding of the evolving identity of Canada, and an overall goal of building harmonious diversity and inclusion that encompasses our Indigenous partners. The project engaged over 400 youth 15-25 years of age in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to examine the national Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action (TRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).