What is UNDRIP?

The Declaration is a comprehensive statement addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It was drafted and formally debated for over twenty years prior to being adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007. The document emphasizes the rights of Indigenous peoples to live in dignity, to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their self-determined development, in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. A key provision of UNDRIP is the doctrine of “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC).

UNDRIP is a non-binding international instrument that articulates “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”

The UNDRIP sets out a comprehensive framework of rights and principles that are specific to Indigenous peoples. These include the right to self determination, the right tot lands, territories, and resources, the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect them, the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions, and the right to be free from discrimination and forced assimilation.

Why is UNDRIP important?

While Canada has historically supported UNDRIP in principle, until recently it has stopped short of adopting it in full. On June 16, 2021, the Senate voted to pass Bill C-15, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (the UNDRIP Act), into law. The UNDRIP Act received Royal Assent on June 21, marking a historic milestone in Canada’s implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP or the Declaration).

What are the key provisions of the UNDRIP act?

The UNDRIP is a declaration, not an act or law, and as such it is not legally binding. However, the declaration sets out a number of principles and rights that are important for the recognition, protection, and promotion of the rights of Indigenous peoples. Some of the key components of the UNDRIP include:

  1. Self-determination: Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination, which includes the right to determine their own political status, pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, and freely determine their own priorities and strategies.
  2. Lands, territories, and resources: Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop, and control the lands, territories, and resources that they have traditionally owned, occupied, or used.
  3. Free, prior and informed consent (FPIC): Governments must obtain the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before implementing projects or initiatives that may impact their lands, territories, or resources.
  4. Non-discrimination: Indigenous peoples have the right to be free from discrimination and to enjoy the same human rights and fundamental freedoms as all other people.
  5. Cultural rights: Indigenous peoples have the right to practice, develop, and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs, including language, art, music, and spirituality.
  6. Participation in decision-making: Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making processes that affect their rights and interests, including the right to be consulted and to give their consent.
  7. Remedies and reparations: Indigenous peoples have the right to effective remedies and reparations for any actions or omissions that violate their rights.

Overall, the UNDRIP is an important international instrument that recognizes the rights and dignity of Indigenous peoples and provides a framework for governments and other actors to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights.

What can my organization do to prepare for the full implementation of UNDRIP in Canada?

Until UNDRIP has been fully implemented, and policy and legislation developed, we believe that the best course of action is to engage as meaningfully as possible. Depending on the scale and nature of a project, this could mean:

  • Developing relationships (at minimum) with consultation offices, leadership, and Indigenous businesses
  • Share information as transparently as possible, in a timely manner, and in plain language that is easy to understand
  • Seeking to understand, address and mitigate any issues or rights infringement
  • Seeking to understand and incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into project planning – considering Indigenous worldviews
  • Providing economic opportunities and employment opportunities for Indigenous communities and businesses (prioritizing those with greatest impacts from your development)
  • Entering into formalized agreements, such as Impact Benefits Agreements (IBAs)

Offering equity ownership to Indigenous communities/groups