Saturday, May 1, 2021

Who is, and isn't, behind UNDRIP and Bill C-15 in "Canada".

Many people have drawn conclusions based on the notion that the Canadian government is behind Bill C-15, and thus because the Canadian government has demonstrated itself untrustworthy over generated, the bill also can't be trusted.

Knowing who helped create UNDRIP and C-15 may then help move the next steps forward once this bill is finally passed into law.

Who isn't behind this policy?

Canada (including its provinces) has been an opponent of this policy from the beginning.  The formal aspects of UNDRIP started in 1982 when the Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established, and Canada has been an opponent for the entire 39 years since.

There are individual politicians (Members of Provincial Parliaments, Members of the Federal Parliament, Senators) who support, and they are largely but not exclusively Indigenous. The governments of Canada has been an opponent regardless of which party happens to have formed a government.

The Conservative Governments and party spokespersons are more overtly opposed, using phrases suggesting UNDRIP is merely an "aspirational document" and not part of international human rights norms.

The Liberal Governments and party spokespersons will claim publicly to be supportive, but will do whatever it can do to confuse and delay work towards updating Canadian laws to come into compliance with these finally recognized human rights.

The NDP provincial governments and party spokespersons will also claim publicly to be supportive, but even once similar bills to C-15 are passed provincially as happened in British Columbia, they will actively seek ways to get around the policy.

The governments of Canada do not want to move this policy forward, but are receiving considerable international pressure to do so.  In the long run Canada has no choice, so the only tactic they really have is to delay for as long as possible.

Who is behind this policy?

As I wrote in my brief to the parliamentary committee studying the bill, this process can be seen as dating back to 1923 when Deskaheh, Chief of the Iroquois League, representing the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, left Canada to go on a mission to Geneva (Switzerland).

Many of those alive today who have been working for decades of their life on this policy have done interviews or participated in forums worthy of listening to. There are many other Indigenous people who have been actively working on this area of policy for decades.

Pam Palmater

Video created from her intervention as a witness in front of the Senate committee studying Bill C-15 on May 10th.

Truth and Reconciliation Commissioners Honourable Murray Sinclair, Dr. Marie Wilson, and Chief Wilton (Willie) Littlechild.

Event hosted by Faith in the Declaration on May 4'th, 2021


Professor Brenda Gunn and the Honourable Murray Sinclair

Interviewed as part of the Warrior Life Podcast (April 2021)

Kanienʼkehá꞉ka grassoots warrior and Onkwehón:we rights activist Ellen Gabriel

Interviewed as part of the Warrior Life Podcast (April 2021)

Romeo Saganash

Interviewed as part of the Warrior Life Podcast (January 2021)

Romeo Saganash, Brenda Gunn, and Grand Chief Littlechild

March 2021, Amnesty International town hall



Honourable Graydon Nicholas

Interviewed as part of the Warrior Life Podcast (Mar 2021)

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Provided a great summary of Bill C-15 at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre's dialogue on implementing the UN Declaration through Bill C-15.


Leah Gazan

There are so many interviews, and she has her own YouTube Channel where she regularly discusses UNDRIP and C-15.

She spoke about her work in this area on an APTN interview in November 2019, before much of the current opposition emerged:

She also spoke on the One Dish One Mic radio show in February 2021. I highly recommend this weekly Indigenous talk radio show.

Why am I involved at all?

Part of White Privilege is the possibility of living in Canada and being entirely unaware of what this system is.  It is not that the settler-colonial systems of Canada give every white person a hand up, but that the systems aren't designed specifically to oppress what it declares "others" including BIPOC people generally and Indigenous peoples specifically.

I learned about UNDRIP as part of classes I took from the University of Alberta department of Native Studies in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021. I continued to learn both from the people listed above, as well as closely listening to the Indigenous critiques. I have no sympathy for the settler critiques of UNDRIP I've heard, which amount to a desire to continue to violate human rights for profit.

In the Indigenous critiques I found justifiable critiques of the Governments of Canada, with the Canadian systems being dishonorable since the British created these systems to be part of the British Empire in 1867.

While reading the bill and the background I did not find evidence that this was policy that the Government of Canada wanted to pass. It is clearly the result of decades of international (including Indigenous nations) pressure against Canada.

I watched many presentations from opponents, and while I learned more and more why none of us should trust the systems of Canada, none of these presentations offered evidence to explain opposition to UNDRIP or C-15 as these aren't Canadian policies.

If anyone is curious, I wrote about how I analyse and why I support Bill C-15, the UNDRIP related bill.


Why don't I "stay in my lane"?

One thing opponents have been saying on social media to try to scare settlers into not advocating in support of UNDRIP is to suggest we should "stay in our lane" -- that this should only be a debate between Indigenous peoples.

I am not willing to do this for two primary reasons:

  • Since Bill C-15 was tabled, certain Indigenous opponents have been asking settlers to also oppose C-15.

    In some cases opposition has come in the form of accusing some of the Indigenous people above of being sellouts (or worse).

    Some of these Indigenous opponents are individuals and groups that supported the same policy when it had the earlier numbering of Bill C-262. Bills of the same basic design have been tabled multiple times since 2008, always blocked or delayed by the government of the day.

    I consider it my duty as a settler to ensure that fellow settlers don't incorrectly believe there is a pan-indigenous opposition on this issue, and to point them toward the Indigenous people who have been working for decades on this policy. Settlers rarely understand the diversity within and between Indigenous nations.

  • Since Bill C-15 regulates Canada, not indigenous peoples, this is my lane.

    While some opponents only want settlers to engage if they also oppose C-15, I hope everyone who is aware of all the work that has been done over the past nearly hundred years towards this policy will be engaged.

    I do not want Indigenous peoples to "stay in their lane".

    • Finally getting UNDRIP passed through the general assembly in 2007 was an important step, but not the destination.
    • Finally getting Bill C-15 style legislation passed into Canadian law after the delays of the last 13 years is an important step, but not the destination.
    • This is going to be a long process to amend Canadian law to become less and less an ongoing expression of White Supremacy. This may be the destination for some, but I personally hope this process will eventually lead towards decolonization.

      Misinformation about who is pushing for these changes will only delay this process, to the benefit of the systems of Canada, so it is incumbent upon all of us to learn as much as we can.


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