Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

UNDRIP, COVID-19 key issues for talks with PM Trudeau, premiers: Indigenous leaders

Canadian parliament. (via Glacier Media)

Leaders of Canada's three national Indigenous organizations say they plan to turn up the heat on the Liberal government's promise to enact the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when they meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's premiers Thursday (March 12).

First Nations, Inuit and Metis leaders say discussions about the declaration, known as UNDRIP, are timely given recent disputes among Indigenous nations, governments and industry over oil and gas projects, including the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines.

A cornerstone of the UN declaration says that "free, prior and informed consent" should be sought on decisions that affect Indigenous Peoples, including their lands or resources.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says he plans to stress that UNDRIP is the answer to many conflicts that arise over pipelines, as it would see Indigenous rights and title holders involved in the design of projects at the outset.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed says UNDRIP is simply a recognition of Indigenous Peoples' human rights and a simple way to eliminate disputes over resource extraction projects is to respect those rights rather than forcing litigation.

Metis National Council vice-president David Chartrand says he plans to stress to the premiers that UNDRIP does not mean Indigenous communities or First Nations get a veto over projects — a claim provincial and federal conservative politicians have made in opposition to the declaration.

The Indigenous leaders also say they plan to raise the unique needs of remote Indigenous communities when it comes to COVID-19, and that long-term boil water advisories and overcrowded housing places them at higher risk.