Assembly of First Nations wants federal UNDRIP plan overhauled, slams consultation process | CBC News


The Assembly of First Nations is urging the Canadian government to overhaul its action plan on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), after a working draft of the plan met with disappointment and resistance at a chiefs’ conference this week in Ottawa.

In an emergency resolution debated Thursday morning, First Nations leaders urged the Liberals to amend the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to delay the plan or, if that fails, amend the plan after tabling it following more consultation.

The chiefs eventually carried the resolution but not without amendments, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether the final version will urge amendments to the plan, or the legislation itself. The final wording won’t be available until National Chief RoseAnne Archibald signs off on it.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Archibald said she wants to see the final wording before deciding on her next steps, noting that, while First Nations widely support the declaration, Canada’s implementation of it remains a friction point.

“There’s a lot of back and forth on it because there isn’t 100 per cent consensus that Canada’s UN declaration act is in the best interest of First Nations,” Archibald said.

But in any case, she said the plan’s language around free, prior and informed consent — the principle that Indigenous peoples have the right to say yes or no to projects that impact them — must be strengthened.

“Having free, prior and informed consent on development, or on any matter that has to do with lands and waters, is one of the key components of UNDRIP, and why so many First Nations support it,” she said.

“So many First Nations want it implemented because of that particular clause.”

‘It is not perfect,’ says Lametti

The action plan is due in June 2023, two years after the legislation received royal assent, unless the law is amended.

“The draft action plan signals the ineffectiveness of the federal government to envision reconciliation that includes the full recognition of First Nations inherent and treaty rights, title and jurisdiction,” the resolution says, blasting the plan for clinging to the status quo.

The resolution slams the consultation process led by Justice Minister David Lametti as rushed, leaving “grossly inadequate time” for First Nations to provide input, adding that the vast majority of First Nations were excluded.

The resolution also says less than a third of the federal cash available for consultation was handed to First Nations while the remaining majority went to “Indigenous organizations which are not rights holders,” itself a move that violates the UN declaration.

David Lametti at a press conference.
Justice Minister David Lametti delivers his opening remarks during an announcement about United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples legislation in Ottawa in 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Answering criticism on Wednesday, Lametti said he wanted three years to craft the plan but Perry Bellegarde, then-AFN national chief who pushed for the act, wanted a one-year timeline, so they compromised on two.

“The draft plan is just that — it’s a draft,” Lametti said. 

“It is not perfect. It is not final. It is not complete.”

The AFN represents more than 600 chiefs who represent nearly a million First Nations people with Indian status. The organization typically meets twice annually to debate and pass resolutions that delegate the national group its lobbying mandate. 

A rare third assembly was called this spring to deal with the draft plan — still incomplete and admittedly “imperfect” according to Lametti — which offers a snapshot of the Liberals’ current reconciliation agenda through a list of 101 policy initiatives that the government is linking to UNDRIP.

Passed at the UN general assembly in 2007, the declaration details global minimum standards for the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights. 

Canada initially opposed the UN declaration. The Harper Conservative government switched positions in 2010 but billed the declaration as an “aspirational document.” The Trudeau Liberals unequivocally endorsed it in 2016, passing legislation to align federal laws with UNDRIP in 2021.

CBC News has reached out to Lametti’s office for comment.


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