Resolution Number: A160

Subject: UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Moved By: Charles Bobbish from the Diocese of Moosonee

Seconded By: Ethel Ahenakew from the Diocese of Saskatoon

Note: The mover and the seconder must be members of the General Synod and be present in the House when the resolution is before the synod for debate.


That this General Synod:

  1. Affirm the commitment and diligence of Indigenous leaders and human rights experts around the world who have worked for more than two decades to draft the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to advocate for its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly.
  2. In concert with the Centre for Rights and Democracy, the Quaker Aboriginal Affairs Committee, KAIROS, and Amnesty International Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to do the following:

    a. Organize meetings and consultation here in Canada so that Indigenous and governmental representatives can prepare for the upcoming UN working-group session on the draft declaration.

    b. Enumerate the articles that it can adopt without amendment and precisely identify the perceived problems caused by articles that it cannot adopt without amendments, all for the sake of ensuring that such meetings and consultation will be productive.

    c. Provide assurance that any changes sought by Canada will be fully consistent with Canada’s existing commitments under international law and Supreme Court of Canada decisions, and do not discriminate against Indigenous peoples.

    d. Strongly support renewal of the mandate of the working group on the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which mandate will be terminating in December 2004.

    e. Confer with representatives of Indigenous peoples in examining means to adopt a methodology conducive to accelerating the proceedings of the UN working group.

    f. Review its strategy and alliances; consider following the example of New Zealand, which recently withdrew from the “CANZUS” group (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United States); and join the Nordic or Latin American group, both of which have a more positive attitude concerning the Declaration.

  3. Mandate the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the EcoJustice Committee, through the joint working group on Indigenous justice issues, to work with KAIROS: Aboriginal Rights Committee, among others, to educate Anglican parishes regarding the content of the draft Declaration, its implications for Indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world, and Canada’s role in its adoption.


A working group of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights drafted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples between 1982 and 1994. The Sub-Commission adopted the Declaration, and a working group of the Commission on Human Rights has been discussing it since 1995. At present, consensus has been reached on only 2 of its 45 articles.

Several UN bodies and the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance (Durban, 2001) have launched countless appeals for the adoption of the Declaration by the UN General Assembly. Its adoption is also one of the mandates of the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, which ends in December 2004.

Today, 8 months from the end of the Decade, 43 articles remain to be adopted by the States participating in the debate.

Two major items constitute the cornerstone of the Declaration: the right to self-determination, and the right to control over lands, territories, and resources. Both are directly related to the survival of Indigenous peoples and to their capacity to break out of the vicious circle of poverty and dependency. Canada has already ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, both of which, in their first articles, recognize the rights of all peoples to self-determination and to control their natural wealth and resources.

Depending on the position that it takes, Canada can play a very significant role in ensuring that a consensus on the draft Declaration can be reached rapidly. In its public statements, Canadian officials have been relatively supportive of the draft Declaration; however, in negotiations at the UN working group, Canada persists in allying with the States that have shown the greatest resistance to recognition of a strong Declaration: Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

In February 2004, a coalition of Canadian human rights and social justice organizations (including KAIROS) issued a joint appeal to the Canadian Government. This appeal urged Canada to publicly acknowledge that the draft Declaration, though subject to improvement, constitutes the required minimum international standard for the recognition and protection of Indigenous peoples’ human rights, as well as to play a strong leadership role in facilitating its timely adoption.

In its press release, the coalition also urged members of the public to let the Canadian government know they support a strong Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Source: ACIP & EcoJustice
  (name of committee, diocese, etc.)
Submitted by: Todd Russell and Sue Winn