Decolonizing UNDRIP’s Implementation
Held on November 5, 2020, the session was attended by over 70 youth from AFN, ITK, MNC, CRE and a number of law schools. This session was an important first step in involving Indigenous youth in the implementation of UNDRIP.
While most of the group expressed feeling hopeful about the implementation of UNDRIP in general, nearly all participants expressed feeling skeptical or distrusting that it would be done in a meaningful way. Participants agreed that UNDRIP should be rolled out differently depending on the needs of communities, over time, and not in silos defined by the Government of Canada.
The most direct, efficient, and effective way to decolonize the implementation of UNDRIP and ensure Indigenous communities are invested in its success as a reconciliation framework is to empower those communities to lead the process at every stage, including in interpreting the document itself.
In addressing the specificities of how UNDRIP could impact their individual communities, youth agreed that the particular community impact will depend entirely on how the roll-out is done. Some youth had questions about how UNDRIP will impact existing resource-sharing agreements, and more generally how and whether the concept of free, prior, and informed consent will be respected and enforced by the Government and by resource extraction industries. One youth with roots in the North expressed hope that UNDRIP will further bolster existing frameworks in and around their community, especially in regards to hunting, fishing, and education autonomy.
The Youth we spoke to agreed that discussing reconciliation necessitates a discussion of tangible actions related to decolonization and fighting white supremacy, in order to ensure the implementation works to solve issues; and not perpetuate them. Relatedly, land sovereignty/justice also needs to be a key component of this discussion. One participant suggested that Indigenous land control and sovereignty is its own matter that should not be grouped in with conversations about self-government and self-determination. This aims to ensure that the complexities of these conversations are not diluted, and ample time and space is provided to discuss each separately.
Finally, participants were unanimous that implementing UNDRIP needs to include a public education component that targeted non-Indigenous Canadians. The idea that non-Indigenous Canadians need to build their understanding of Indigenous peoples histories and realities as a central component to reconciliation is not a new one – the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (1996), Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (2015), and the 2019 Reconciliation Barometer all identified this as crucial to real reconciliation and change in this country. With the wide reach of UNDRIP, perhaps this process can be an opportunity to build this capacity in hopes that we can move forward together towards a shared goal of respecting the inherent rights of Indigenous peoples in a meaningful way.