With Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett and Métis Elder Oliver Boulette in front of the UN
As a proud Métis from Manitoba, the birthplace of the Métis Nation, it was a great honour to join the Canadian delegation to New York for the 10th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) from April 23rd to 26th, 2017. This was held in conjunction with the 16th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
The UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on September 13th, 2007. At that time, Canada was one of only four countries that voted against it. Since then, all four countries have reversed their position. At the United Nations on May 10, 2016, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett officially renounced Canada’s opposition and pledged to implement UNDRIP, with a few questions remaining that required further study. This April, Canada fully committed to UNDRIP, with no reservations.
As per the United Nations website, “the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”
In short, the Declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ basic human rights. It also recognizes their rights to self-determination, language, equality, land and other rights. As stated by Minister Bennett, UNDRIP breathes new life into Section 35 of our Constitution, which recognizes Aboriginal rights and title.
I wanted to highlight a few achievements our government has made on Indigenous rights since October 2015, with a particular focus on Manitoba:
Basic human rights
- investing $2.2 billion in clean water infrastructure to finally end on-reserve boil water advisories in Indigenous communities
- $58 million currently being invested on 24 First Nations in Manitoba to prevent and address long-term drinking water advisories and improve capacity and reliability of water and wastewater systems
- improving access to primary care and mental health services, home and palliative care, and greater support for maternal and child health for First Nations and Inuit, through an investment of $828.2 million over five years
- $50 million over two years (2016-2018) to upgrade health facilities in Manitoba First Nations, including new health facilities in Cross Lake First Nation, God’s Lake Narrows First Nation, Lac Brochet First Nation and Red Sucker Lake First Nation
- providing $225 million over the next 11 years to improve housing conditions for First Nations, Inuit and Métis not living on-reserve
- committing $4 billion over 10 years from social and green infrastructure funding to build and improve infrastructure in First Nations and Inuit communities
- expanding Nutrition North Canada to all northern isolated communities, including those located in Manitoba, by providing $64.5 million over five years, starting last year, and $13.8 million per year ongoing
- investing $84.9 million over the next five years and $28.3 million per year afterward on an ongoing basis to build the governance capacity of the Métis National Council and its five provincial Governing Members – including the Manitoba Metis Federation – as well as to support collaborative work with the Government of Canada on Métis self-government and self-determination
- signing historic Education Governance Agreement with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre for the creation of the Manitoba First Nations school board that will be fully operational for the 2017-18 school year
- investing $89.9 million over the next three years to preserve protect and revitalize Indigenous languages and cultures
- dedicating investments in early learning and child care programs for Indigenous children living on- and off-reserve
- launching a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
- addressing the over-representation of Indigenous Peoples in the criminal justice and corrections systems, an investment of $120.7 million over five years
- creating a cabinet committee to review all federal laws, policies and operational practices to ensure that Canada is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Indigenous and treaty rights; adhering to international human rights standards, including the UNDRIP; and supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action
- providing funding to the Assembly of Manitoba’s Chiefs to hold community engagement sessions on Manitoba’s child-welfare system to make changes that will keep kids with families and focus on a child-centred approach
- investing $2.6 billion over five years to make sure that every First Nations child receives a quality education, including building and repairing schools
- providing $18.9 million over the next five years and $5.5 million every four years thereafter, to support Indigenous youth and sport; the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is also studying this issue, after adopting a motion I put forward
- signing of a jointly developed Framework Agreement with the Manitoba Metis Federation, which sets out a process to begin formal reconciliation negotiations related to the 2013 Manitoba Metis Federation Inc. v. Canada decision of the Supreme Court of Canada
While there is still much more that needs to be done, this is a good start. Our government is committed to a nation-to-nation discussion with Indigenous Peoples while working our way toward reconciliation. We may not always get it right, and we are counting on Indigenous Peoples to help us along the way.
At side event hosted by Métis Nation President Clément Chartier, National Chief Perry Bellegarde of the Assembly of First Nations,and Inuit Tapirtiit Kanatami President Natan Obed
With colleagues Robert-Falcon Ouellette, MaryAnn Mihychuk, Hunter Tootoo, Yvonne Jones, Don Rusnak and Gary Anandasangaree