Valcourt clarifies Canada’s position on UN indigenous rights declaration

“In Canada, our unique constitutional framework recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and treaty rights”


Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your recent article about Canada’s position on indigenous rights.

Our position remains clear. This government remains committed to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples across Canada. We will also continue to contribute to international efforts that improve the lives of indigenous peoples throughout the world.

It is important to remember that in Canada, we have a unique framework that already balances the interests of all Canadians. Our constitutionally-entrenched framework ensures that consultation happens, and when appropriate, accommodation of Aboriginal interests.

That is why our 2010 statement of support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples clearly recorded that the declaration is an “aspirational document which speaks to the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, taking into account their specific cultural, social and economic circumstances.”

Again — in Canada, our unique constitutional framework recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and treaty rights.

In this country, governments have a legal duty to consult Aboriginal peoples and, where appropriate, accommodate Aboriginal peoples when the Crown contemplates conduct that could impact potential or established Aboriginal or treaty rights. The principles expressed in the declaration are consistent with what already exists within our own constitution.

Furthermore, in 2010 we placed on the record our concerns with “free, prior and informed consent” when used as a veto. Most importantly, “free, prior and informed consent,” as it is considered in the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples Outcome Document, could be interpreted in a way that would legally provide a veto to Aboriginal groups, and therefore, cannot be reconciled with current Canadian law.

We wholly regret that Canada’s considerations were not taken into account on the world stage at that time.

Already in Canada, our government consults and engages with Aboriginal communities and organizations on matters that could impact their interests and their rights. This is an important component of good governance, sound policy development, and decision-making. Quite simply, it is the right thing for any good government to do.

Recently, we have announced actions to ensure that positive and productive relations with Aboriginal communities continue. These include: addressing key impediments to treaty negotiations, engaging Aboriginal peoples on reforms to advance reconciliation across the country, and increasing investments in jobs training.

As we have previously stated: “The government’s vision is a future in which Aboriginal families and communities are healthy, safe, self-sufficient and prosperous within a Canada where people make their own decisions, manage their own affairs, and make strong contributions to the country as a whole.”

We continue to believe this and our actions have, and will continue to ensure Aboriginal peoples in Canada have access to the same rights that all Canadians have long enjoyed.

Bernard Valcourt, Minister
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada

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