(OTTAWA, December 3) – As Canada’s leading organization representing Indigenous women and gender-diverse people, the Native Women’s Association of Canada welcomes the Government of Canada’s introduction today of Bill C-15: An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“The consultation process leading up to today’s publication of Bill C-15 may not have been perfect,” stated NWAC President Lorraine Whitman, referring to NWAC’s exclusion last month from a key federal meeting on the draft law.
“Regardless, the Government of Canada has taken a key step along the road of reconciliation.”
It is widely recognized that UNDRIP is an important human rights instrument that can help broker reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and rectify numerous wrongs, both past and present.
NWAC also applauds the formal acknowledgement in Bill C-15 of the acute importance of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the 231 Calls for Justice. The National Inquiry Final Report made a direct reference to UNDRIP, calling on Canadian governments to immediately implement and fully comply with its tenets.
“It is widely recognized that Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse persons have borne the heaviest brunt of Canada’s appalling legacy of colonialism,” stated Whitman. “Positively, Bill C-15 grasps this key point.”
If acted upon in practice, the effective implementation of the UNDRIP would start Canada down a path that diverges significantly from its tragic and shameful past.
“This is very important for Indigenous women, especially considering Article 22 of UNDRIP requires special attention be paid to the rights and special needs of Indigenous women” stated Whitman.
While placing the UNDRIP on a legislative footing in Canada will in no way absolve the country from acting on its other key obligations, including the creation of a National Inquiry Action Plan, Bill C-15 could facilitate the larger processes of ensuring reconciliation as well as effective reparation. NWAC also cautions that a Canadian domestic interpretation must respect the spirit of UNDRIP, and must not be applied in such a way as to undermine the inherent treaty and land rights of Indigenous nations.
On September 23, 2020, the Government of Canada stated its intent to introduce legislation to implement the UNDRIP before the end of this year.
“That UNDRIP was not only declared a legislative priority for the Government of Canada, but tabled to the House of Commons before the end of the year – as promised – is very much welcomed,” added Whitman.
NWAC remains committed to working with the Government of Canada to facilitate the passage of Bill C-15 as it moves through Parliament.
“We are very pleased the government has committed to us to work in partnership with Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people in the implementation of UNDRIP,” stated Whitman.
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