June 21, 2023 – OTTAWA, Ontario
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami welcomes the completion of an action plan by the federal government that is intended to achieve the objectives of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Completion of an action plan by the Minister of Justice in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples and other federal Ministers is a statutory obligation under the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. ITK co-developed this legislation with the federal government as well as the Inuit priorities section of this action plan and key action plan measures that are intended to benefit all Indigenous peoples.
Actions in the Inuit priorities section of the action plan will be implemented through the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee by federal departments and Inuit Treaty Organizations. This section includes commitments to advance Inuit priorities such as establishing the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee as a permanent mechanism, whole of government implementation of the Inuit-Crown Co-Development Principles and Inuit Nunangat Policy, and developing a federal Inuit education policy.
Section 5 of the U.N. Declaration Act obligates the federal government to take all measures necessary, in consultation and collaboration with Indigenous peoples, to align Canada’s laws with the rights affirmed by the U.N. Declaration. ITK therefore sought to secure commitments from the federal government in the action plan to amend existing legislation or develop new legislation that would align Canada’s laws with the rights affirmed by the U.N. Declaration. We prioritized, among other areas, rights in relation to cross-border mobility and immigration (Article 36), repatriation of Indigenous human remains and belongings (Article 12) and ending and preventing discrimination against Indigenous peoples (Article 2).
Inuit once again reiterate that the U.N. Declaration outlines the fundamental human rights of Inuit, not aspirational policy goals. While we are pleased that some actions are commitments to new legislative initiatives, the federal government must be more ambitious and diligent in meeting its statutory obligation of aligning Canada’s laws with the rights affirmed by the U.N. Declaration. The rights affirmed by the U.N. Declaration can only be implemented if they are interpreted as legal rights and implemented and enforced accordingly. Inuit rights are not second class rights and deserve the same protection as the rights of other Canadians. It remains unclear how the federal government intends to meet this obligation.
The success of the U.N. Declaration Act in implementing our human rights is contingent, in large part, on whether or not the federal government is willing to work with Inuit and other Indigenous peoples to establish an Indigenous human rights commission and tribunal that would serve this purpose. We have seen that in the absence of effective monitoring and enforcement, international human rights treaties ratified by Canada have little to no positive impact in our communities. They are largely ignored by governments, causing our people to experience systemic discrimination and human rights violations in areas such as access to health services, drinking water and sanitation, and food security.
We look forward to beginning the important work of implementing the action plan, through a process that will require diligence and political engagement by implicated federal departments to succeed.