Canada supports UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

published 10 May 2016 updated 12 May 2016

In a long-awaited move the Canadian government has shifted its position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by joining more than 140 other countries in signing the agreement.

In a decision being applauded by the Canadian Federation of Teachers (CTF), the Canadian government has followed through on its promise to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“It was time to renew relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership,” read a news release from Canada’s Minister for Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould.

Canada’s embrace comes during a time when indigenous communities in the country are grappling with poverty, social and cultural exclusion which has led to a major increase in suicides in some areas. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made indigenous affairs a top priority and this signing is one step in that direction following the results of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process.

“The CTF applauds the government of Canada’s decision to endorse the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People,” said  CTF President Heather Smith. “CTF hopes this endorsement signals the government’s commitment to correct historic and on-going inequalities for indigenous peoples, including the under-funding of education for many First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children and youth in Canada.”

The declaration recognises human rights for indigenous groups, including the right of self-determination, language, equality and land. In supporting the agreement, Canada continues to work toward “true reconciliation” with its indigenous peoples.

“Education International welcomes action that values the spirit, wisdom and core gains in advocacy,” said General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen. “Policy change acknowledge the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations to address the needs of indigenous education, their teacher and their peoples.”

The document, enacted by the UN in 2007, had previously been opposed by Canada under its previous government. The policy move was announced during the Forum on Indigenous Issues at the UN in New York City on 10 May.