A bill that would require the Canadian government to adhere to the principles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is before Parliament, and though it probably won’t be passed, it has at least gained some traction in the minds of some politicians.
“The principles established in the UN declaration on indigenous rights recognize indigenous peoples’ individual and collective rights,” Romeo Saganash, the New Democratic Party Member of Parliament for the Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou district, told The Globe and Mail and other reporters at a news conference when he introduced the bill at the end of January.
“The Declaration was negotiated over a period of 23 years, with the participation of numerous representatives of indigenous peoples from every part of the world, speaking on behalf of 370 million aboriginals worldwide,” he said on the floor of the House of Commons on January 28. “It includes 46 provisions protecting their social, economic, cultural, spiritual, environmental and, particularly, political rights. These are minimum standards set by the United Nations that I am asking this House to respect henceforth, in order to ensure the dignity, survival and well-being of all aboriginal peoples, including those of Canada.”
Given the tensions between the Conservative government and the country’s aboriginals, the bill is not likely to be adopted. It’s a private member’s bill—one not introduced by the government’s executive branch—and those don’t usually become law, according to the website OpenParliament.ca. Saganash’s motion was adopted and officially read on the floor and probably won’t go much further than that.
But the motion, introduced just after the end of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence’s six-week-long hunger strike and the worldwide explosion of the grassroots Idle No More movement, at least got politicians looking at the issue of aboriginal rights from another angle.
“If we take the U.N. declaration serious, then we should take the commitments made in the UN declaration seriously,” said interim Liberal Leader Rob Rae to The Globe and Mail.
Canada ratified the U.N. Declaration in November 2010, about a month before the United States did. It was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2007. Idle No More, meanwhile, is mobilizing and still pressing to get both the Canadian government and aboriginal leadership to get their concerns heard at the national level.