Bill C-15, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (the Act), received Royal Assent on June 21, 2021. The Act affirms the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a universal international human rights instrument applicable in Canadian law and seeks to provide a framework for its implementation in Canada. This bulletin provides an overview of the implications and key aspects of the Act.
Implications of the Act. The Act is widely seen as the first step in the domestic implementation of UNDRIP in Canada and follows similar legislation adopted by British Columbia in 2019. The Act does not itself implement UNDRIP into Canadian law but provides a pathway for its adoption and application, commensurate with Canadian law and the framework for recognizing the rights of Indigenous peoples provided under Canada’s Constitution. It is not yet clear to what extent Canadian law will be made consistent with certain provisions of UNDRIP, specifically the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) for actions that may affect their rights, resources, and traditional territories. It is, however, probable that the use of UNDRIP as a tool for the interpretation of rights and statutes is likely to increase, in light of the Act, as laws are amended and adopted, in order to ensure or improve consistency with UNDRIP.
Rights of Indigenous peoples. Section 2(2) provides that the Act upholds, and does not abrogate or derogate from, the rights of Indigenous peoples recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Consistency with UNDRIP. Section 5 provides that the Government of Canada must take all measures to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with UNDRIP.
Action Plan. Section 6 provides that the Minister designated by the Governor in Council pursuant to section 3 (the Minister), must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP. The action plan must include measures:
- to address injustices, combat prejudice and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination against Indigenous peoples, including systemic racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous elders, youth, children, women, men, persons with disabilities and gender-diverse persons and two-spirit persons;
- to promote mutual respect and understanding as well as good relations, including through human rights education;
- related to accountability with respect to the implementation of UNDRIP; and
- related to reviewing and amending the plan.
Report of Parliament. Section 7 directs the Minister to report to Parliament each year on measures taken under sections 5 and 6 and provides for the report to be made public after being tabled in Parliament.