Canada removes objector status and officially adopts United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples

 Source: MLT

The Government of Canada voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) when it was first passed by the General Assembly in 2007. Three years later, the federal government accepted UNDRIP with qualifications as an “aspirational document”.

On May 10, 2016, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett officially announced that Canada would now fully support UNDRIP, without qualification, and affirmed Canada’s commitment to adopt and implement UNDRIP in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.[1]

UNDRIP recognizes Indigenous peoples’ basic human rights, language, equality, land and their right to control their own lives. It also contains an article which requires the state to obtain the free, prior and informed consent (“FPIC”) of concerned Indigenous peoples prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands, territories or other resources.[2]  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission raised UNDRIP in 13 of its 94 recommendations, including a recommendation that Canada adopt and fully implement UNDRIP.[3]

Alberta Premier Notley tasked her Cabinet Ministers in a mandate letter to review their policies, programs and legislation that may require changes based on the principles of UNDRIP. She asked Ministers to work closely with  Indigenous leaders to “chart a path forward together with Indigenous people on this journey of reconciliation.”[4]

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (“CAPP”) released a discussion paper on implementing UNDRIP which said the commitments to implement UNDRIP “present an opportunity to transform the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and all Canadians.” CAPP endorsed “UNDRIP as a framework for reconciliation in Canada” and said it supports “the implementation of its principles in a manner consistent with the Canadian Constitution and law.”[5]

A Spokesperson for the Mining Association of Canada was reported as saying that the adoption of UNDRIP by Canada “puts us back where we properly belong and also where I think, in practice, we have largely been.”[6]

The adoption of UNDRIP appears to be supported by both levels of government and is not yet actively opposed by Canada’s largest resource extraction industry associations, but it remains to be seen exactly how governments will implement UNDRIP in Canada, particularly its more contentious provisions including FPIC.

[1] Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, “Canada Becomes a Full Supporter of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, Government of Canada (10 May 2016) online:

[2] United Nations, United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (March 2008) online:

[3] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future: Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada” (2015) online:

[4] Letter from Premier Rachel Notley to Alberta Cabinet Ministers (7 July 2015) online:

[5] Canada Association of Petroleum Producers, “Discussion Paper on Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada” (26 April 2016) at 1-2.

[6] Bruce Cheadle, “UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples ‘should not be scary’: Bennett” iPolitics (10 May 2016) online