Where will new Indigenous rights lead? – by James Baillie (Financial Post – January 14, 2020)


Opinion: We should strive for an emboldened Indigenous people, freed from the adverse consequences of their mistreatment and able to make their way as equal citizens

Terence Corcoran’s article on Jan. 8 about Canadian adoption of UNDRIP (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) came as a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere thick with praise for UNDRIP’s espousal of a vast expansion of the legal rights of Indigenous peoples. Even so, it underestimates the likely impact of UNDRIP, especially in the context of a more general expansion of Indigenous rights.

The need for aggressive action to remedy historic wrongs to Indigenous people is well-recognized. Health care, housing, education, child welfare, adequate law enforcement — all these and still other aspects of life require urgent attention. Fortunately, in recent years remedial actions have been initiated. They should continue, urgently.

UNDRIP evolved in the United Nations as one initiative to strengthen the position of Indigenous people. It is a wide-ranging document, clearly intended to provide bulwarks protecting all aspects of Indigenous society.

British Columbia’s Bill 41 makes it part of the province’s law, requiring that other laws be amended to align with UNDRIP. After years of rejecting UNDRIP, the federal government in 2016 supported a private member’s bill similar in effect to Bill 41. It passed the House of Commons but not the Senate.

UNDRIP is written in aspirational rather than statutory language. Yet it is to be interpreted and applied by judges who must have regard to the words, not so much to societal implications.

For the rest of this column: https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/where-will-new-indigenous-rights-lead