Canada law recognizing UN declaration on Indigenous rights receives royal assent
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Canada law recognizing UN declaration on Indigenous rights receives royal assent

A bill by the Canadian Parliament recognizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 (UNDRIP) and establishing a framework for its implementation received Royal Assent on Monday. The legislation requires the government of Canada to take measures for bringing the country’s laws in alignment with the UNDRIP as well as preparing and implementing an action plan for achieving its objectives.

This action plan must be prepared in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples and must include measures to address injustices, combat prejudice, and eliminate all forms of violence, racism, and discrimination against Indigenous peoples. It must also include measures to promote mutual respect and understanding through human rights education.

The action plan should be prepared as soon as practicable and no later than two years after Section 6 of the Act comes into force. The action plan should also include measures for monitoring its implementation, as well as any review or amendment of the plan.

The Governor in Council will appoint a federal minister for the purposes of the Act and such minister must table a report before the Parliament at the end of each fiscal year, for the measures undertaken and implementation of the action plan. This report shall also be made public.

The bill was passed in the House of Commons on May 25 by a vote of 210 to 118. In the same week, a mass grave of 215 Indigenous children was confirmed at a former Catholic residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. Two weeks later, the bill was passed by the Senate on June 16 by a vote of 61 to 10.

Some advocates for Indigenous peoples’ rights are concerned that the new law may “Canadianize” the UNDRIP since it is to be construed as upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which has, in turn, had limited success in recognition of rights due to long-drawn litigations over its interpretation.