Last week, MP Kootenay-Columbia riding Wayne Stetski joined with the Ktunaxa Nation to welcome Quebec MP Romeo Saganash who was there to talk about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
Saganash, the NDP critic for Intergovernmental Aboriginal Affairs, is visiting communities across the country to build an understanding about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
“Romeo has been fighting tirelessly for the rights of Indigenous people,” said Stetski in a press release, “in addition to his work in Parliament and in his community, he spent over 20 years negotiating at the United Nations. I am very pleased he was able to come to the Kootenay to share his passion and expertise.”
His private member’s bill (C-262) is currently before Parliament, calling on the government to adopt and implement the United Nations declaration.
“Implementation of the UN Declaration would explicitly reject colonialism, in favour of justice, equality, respect for human rights and good faith,” Sagnash told the crowd who joined him and Stetski at the Ktunaxa administration building on September 6th. “This bill includes a national action plan as part of the legislative framework called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The national action plan will provide clarity and highlight the importance of harmonizing federal laws — something that will facilitate investment and development.”
Nearly a decade ago in September 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples after more than twenty years of discussion within the UN as a system. The text recognizes a wide range of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms to Indigenous populations.
Under the previous Stephen Harper government, Canada had officially endorsed the declaration in 2010, but only as an aspirational document that was not legally binding. Canada was harshly criticized by the United Nations committee for a broad range of human rights failures including the “inadequate” response to the problem of missing and murdered indigenous woman across the country.
Shortly after the 2015 federal election, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett pledged that the new Liberal Government would implement the UN declaration as part of its effort to foster a better relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Metis people across the country.
Darrin Jamieson, Ktunaxa Nation Council chief administrative officer, said that the Ktunaxa Nation welcomes the work of Saganash while advancing his bill through Parliament.
“This legislation will acknowledge the basic human and self-determination rights afforded to all peoples in this country, now more clearly to First Nations,” he said. “We endorse the bill’s intent to recast our relationship with all levels of government in providing a framework for not only reconciliation, but partnerships in prosperity moving forward.”
Through recognizing this, the government will be actively implementing Section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms aimed at protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples.
“This is an incredibly important conversation for our country,” Stetski said. “We have heard from the Prime Minister that implementing the declaration is a top priority for his government, but we have seen little movement in that direction. The NDP are in full support of moving this bill forward and want to work with the government towards reconciliation.”