7 Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the difference between UNDRIP and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

In September 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, known as UNDRIP. This declaration was intended to eliminate human rights violations against Indigenous peoples around the world (UN General Assembly, 2007). Four states — Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States — voted against. In 2016, the Canadian government announced support of UNDRIP, and the government of British Columbia committed to implementing UNDRIP in 2017.

In 2019, the B.C. legislature passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. The legislation text, while short on specific details, obligates the government to create a plan that would fully implement UNDRIP and to ensure that all laws are consistent with UNDRIP. The first B.C. annual report detailing efforts to conform with UNDRIP confirms that the province is still in the early stages of developing an effective plan and are in the process of engagement with Indigenous groups (Province of British Columbia, 2020).

In June 2021, the Government of Canada formally passed legislation to implement UNDRIP. The legislation text requires the government to delegate duties to a minister, who will then create a plan that will fully implement UNDRIP. [1] As part of the legislation, the Government of Canada will ensure all its laws are consistent with UNDRIP and will attempt to achieve the objectives of UNDRIP.

In response to the tragedy that was the residential schools system, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2007 and had its final report issued in 2015 (Government of Canada, 2021). The purpose of this commission was to preserve the history of the Residential School system, educate Canadians on the practices that occurred, and create calls to action to begin the process of healing (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, n.d.). The final recommendations in the report spanning six volumes is called the “Calls to Action” [PDF]. The B.C. government has committed to implementing all of these Calls to Action. This process includes reviewing relevant laws that affect Indigenous peoples and educating civil servants (Province of British Columbia, n.d.-a).

UNDRIP is an international human rights document, and the Calls to Action are specific to the Canadian experience with Residential Schools. That said, both documents have commitments by the provincial and federal Governments to be implemented in full, and there are some commonalities between the two documents. This includes the preservation of Indigenous culture and identity and the protection of legal rights.

The chapter UNDRIP in Canada contains more information about the Government of Canada’s obligations to Indigenous Peoples under UNDRIP.


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Indigenous Perspectives on Business Ethics and Business Law in British Columbia Copyright © 2022 by Annette Sorensen and Scott van Dyk is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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