UNDRIP, Decision Making, and the Role of Indigenous Peoples

AuthorSara Mainville an d Renée Pelletier
 6
UNDRIP, Decision Making, and the Role of
Indigenous Peoples
Sara Mainville and Renée Pelletier
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
(UNDRIP) was adopted through resolution by the United Nations
General Assembly in September 2007.1 UNDRIPs promise triggered
certain decolonization eorts in Canada’s Indigenous groups, includ-
ing revitalizing Indigenous law and asserting Indigenous jurisdiction.
Indigenous self-determination in Canada also had a domestic impetus.
In 2012, the Idle No More movement was founded by four women who
were leading webinars and teach-ins within Indigenous communities
to explain the legislative changes that were being made by the federal
government to key environmental protections. These included several
pieces of legislation that many First Nations relied on to protect their
section 35 Aboriginal and treaty rights under the Constitution,2 which
were being radically amended. The Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 (Bill C-45)
was the main target of the Idle No More round dances and other pro-
tests under its banner, in an eort to stop the legislative changes from
1 GA Res 61/295, UNGAOR, 61st Sess, UN Doc A/RES/61/295 (13 September 2007).
2 Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c 11 [Consti-
tution Act, 1982].
     120
passing.3 The federal government was accused of gutting the Navigable
Waters Protection Act (as it was then called),4 undermining eorts by
Indigenous groups promoting water protection5 and opposing fracking
and pipeline developments on traditional lands of Indigenous peoples
in regions across Canada.
Beyond the political and moral arguments for stronger water pro-
tection in Canada, the Idle No More protesters recognized that UNDRIP
now required the federal governments to seek free, prior, and informed
consent before making these legislative changes.6 Leading activists
explained to the media and others that Bill C-45 and other legislative
amendments would impact the future protection of section 35 rights and
that federal legislative changes disrespected the eorts of Indigenous
peoples to revitalize their own laws and jurisdiction. This undermined
a reconciliation project of national importance, which had been recom-
mended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls
to Action and reected in other nation-building eorts of Indigenous
peoples in Canada.7 All of this underscored the widening gap between
Indigenous peoples’ strongly held belief in the stewardship of lands,
resources, and waters and the position of the federal government.
The 2012 renaissance, or knowledge transfer, was facilitated by
years of grassroots movements, from communities to regional political
3 SC 2012, c 31.
4 RSC, 1985, c N-22.
5 Water keeping as a traditional responsibility of Indigenous women has been revitalized
through the work of “Grandmother” Josephine Mandamin, also known as the “Water
Walker,” and Minnesota activist Tara Houska, as well as legal academic Aimee Cra.
See Cra’s work with the Grand Council Treaty #3’s Women’s Council: “NIBI Declara-
tion of Treaty #3: Toolkit Dra” (May 2019), online (pdf): Grand Council Treaty#3
6 See Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Minister of Aboriginal Aairs and Northern
Development), 2014 FC 1244; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Minister of Aboriginal
Aairs and Northern Development), 2016 FCA 311; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada
(Governor General in Council), 2018 SCC 40.
7 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 (pdf): Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada www.trc.ca/
[Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada]; and Report of the Royal Commission
on Aboriginal Peoples: Restructuring the Relationship, vol 2 (Ottawa: Supply and Services
Canada, 1996), online (pdf): http://data2.archives.ca/e/e448/e011188230-02.pdf.

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