Questions and Answers
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- What is the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
- Why does Alberta believe it is necessary to implement the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration?
- Aren’t the rights of Aboriginal people already in the Constitution and confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada?
- What steps has the government taken so far toward implementing the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration?
- What is Alberta already doing to support the implementation of the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration?
- Isn’t the federal government implementing the UN Declaration?
- The Truth and Reconciliation reports that were released in December 2015 address many of the articles of the UN Declaration. How are the two documents linked?
Questions and Answers
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(UN Declaration) is an international instrument that was adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007 to enshrine the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” The UN Declaration is the result of almost 25 years of deliberation by U.N. member states and Indigenous groups.
As the fastest growing population in Alberta and Canada, Indigenous people are vital to Alberta’s success.
Our government has made a commitment to the Indigenous people of Alberta to renew our relationship, based on trust and respect.
We believe that addressing the concerns, aspirations and priorities of Indigenous people in Alberta is integral to attaining social and economic equality for everyone in the province - a renewed relationship with Indigenous people benefits all Albertans.
We have already taken action on this. We have apologised to residential school survivors, we have voiced our support for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women, and we have committed to mandatory K-12 curriculum content on the history of residential schools and Treaties.
Yes. Aboriginal people already have rights recognized in the Canadian Constitution and the Supreme Court has rendered decisions that confirm these rights. Reconciliation and recognition of Aboriginal rights requires that we renew and improve our relationship with Indigenous peoples.
It is important that we work together to ensure:
- Aboriginal constitutional rights are respected;
- The air, land and water that all our communities rely on is protected; and
- Indigenous peoples can build more prosperous, self-reliant and culturally strong communities.
We are in the early stages of this important process.
On July 7, 2015 in an open letter to provincial cabinet members, Premier Notley asked each Minister to conduct a review of their policies, programs, and legislation that might require changes based on the principles of the UN Declaration.
Each ministry concluded its review in December, 2015. In addition to this internal government review, the Minister of Aboriginal Relations engaged in a first round of meetings with the Chiefs and Grand Chiefs of Treaty 6, 7 and 8, the leadership of the Metis Nation of Alberta Association, and the Metis Settlements General Council to talk about the government’s intentions with respect to the UN Declaration.
In addition to those initial meetings, the following Indigenous organizations were invited to provide written submissions to the Alberta government:
- Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations
- Treaty Seven Management Corporation
- Treaty Eight First Nations of Alberta
- Metis Nation of Alberta Association
- Metis Settlements General Council
- Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women
- Alberta Native Friendship Centres Association
The next steps will involve an ongoing engagement with Indigenous leaders and groups to explore options for implementing the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration.
This is a complex and sensitive process that will take time and each step will be done in partnership with Indigenous leaders and representative organizations.
Our province has several initiatives underway and policies that align with some of the articles from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including:
We’re continuing to work with First Nations, Metis and Inuit partners to strengthen our focus on Aboriginal perspectives as we develop new K to 12 curriculums that reflect Aboriginal history and culture and the legacy of residential schools;
Alberta recognizes, in principle, that First Nations have the inherent right of self-government;
We are assisting Indigenous peoples in their efforts to repatriate sacred ceremonial objects vital to the practice of traditional ceremonies;
We prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of race or ancestry;
Alberta is unique in that our province is home to eight Metis Settlements, the only Metis communities in Canada with a recognized land base. Alberta’s laws empower the Metis Settlements to determine their own membership;
Our government has taken a strong stand on missing and murdered Aboriginal women by supporting the call for a national inquiry.
In 2010, the previous federal government endorsed the UN Declaration as an aspirational document.
The new Liberal government has committed to fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, beginning with the implementation of the UN Declaration in partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces and the territories.
We commend the Federal government for its commitment to implement the UN Declaration and we will support their work wherever possible. We also remain committed to working in partnership with the Indigenous people of Alberta to implement the principles and objectives of the UN Declaration in a way that addresses the province’s unique needs.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was established to help repair the harm caused by the Indian Residential School experience.
In December, the Commission released its final report and described 94 Calls to Action for reconciliation to establish new relationships based on understanding and respect.
As a province, we have already taken action on two acts of reconciliation.
First, we apologized to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples of Alberta for not taking a stand in the past to stop children from being taken from their homes as part of the federal residential school system.
Second, we joined every other province and territory in Canada in lending our voice to the call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Now, we are taking steps to understand how we can reflect the objectives and principles of the UN Declaration.
Whether it is about fostering increased education about Indigenous history, Treaties and residential schools, reducing the number of children in government care or closing the socio-economic gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians, the TRC report and the UN Declaration are definitely linked.