Frequently Asked Questions: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

What is a United Nations declaration?

A United Nations General Assembly declaration is a document expressing political commitment on matters of global significance. A declaration is not legally binding, unlike a treaty or a covenant. Declarations are not signed or ratified by states.

Declarations can be adopted by consensus or by vote. States have three options when voting. They can either:

  • vote in favour of adopting the declaration
  • vote against adopting the declaration
  • abstain from voting

Why is the B.C. government adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN declaration)?

The UN declaration is an international human rights instrument adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007, to enshrine the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.”

It’s important that society recognizes the consequences of colonial policies and laws which have ongoing negative impacts on Indigenous peoples.

It is also important to recognize the ongoing gap in virtually all social indicators between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

B.C. is working to ensure that Indigenous peoples are able to participate as equals in all aspects of British Columbia society while maintaining and exercising their cultures, unique identities, and constitutionally protected rights.

What has the B.C. government done so far to implement the principles of UN declaration?

All provincial ministers have been tasked with finding ways to bring the UN declaration into action by reviewing government’s policies, programs and legislation.

The Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation is leading the effort to work collaboratively and respectfully with Indigenous peoples to establish a clear, cross-government vision of reconciliation, guided by UN declaration and the calls to action.

The Government of British Columbia introduced the Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples to help guide the public service in the work of implementing the UN declaration.

How are UN declaration and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action linked?

UN declaration is an international human rights instrument endorsed by 148 nations across the world.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) Calls to Action are specific to Canada and are focused on addressing the historical and ongoing damage caused by the residential school system.

Both focus on improving the rights and well-being of Indigenous peoples, covering areas such as child welfare, education, language and culture, health, social and economic outcomes and justice.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission embraces UN declaration as “the framework” to address the human rights violations that have been inflicted on Indigenous peoples throughout Canada’s history.

The 94 Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report include the call for all levels of government to undertake measures to implement UN declaration.

Where can I find more information about the B.C. government’s work with Indigenous people?

Further information on the ministry’s work with Indigenous peoples can be found in other parts of our website.

The website also has specific guidelines for proponents who are planning to engage with First Nations communities.

The Draft Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples guides the B.C. government’s work with Indigenous people.

Further specific information on B.C.’s work with Indigenous peoples can be found on individual ministry and agency websites.