British Columbia

Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations approve plan to implement UNDRIP in Vancouver

Vancouver could become the first city in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) with a plan developed alongside the three First Nations on whose territory the city is located.

Final report, jointly drafted with the city, is scheduled for council's consideration to endorse on Oct. 25

Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem, left, raises his hands to Vancouver city councillors after presenting them with a copy of the UNDRIP task force report at a ceremony held in the Museum of Vancouver on Wednesday. (The Canadian Press)

Vancouver could become the first city in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) with a plan developed alongside the three First Nations on whose territory the city is located.

A joint task force with city officials and members of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations has produced a report with 79 calls to action aimed at implementing the United Nations declaration in Vancouver.

The report has passed through the councils of the three Nations and it will be considered by city council on Oct. 25 with a recommendation that it be endorsed.

The release of the report on Wednesday was marked with a ceremony held in the Museum of Vancouver on Chestnut Street, with attendees including outgoing Mayor Kennedy Stewart, the task force's co-chair Coun. Christine Boyle, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald, and B.C. regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Outgoing Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, left, chats with RoseAnne Archibald, the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, at the ceremony held in the Museum of Vancouver on Wednesday. (Good Side Photo/Submitted by City of Vancouver)

Khelsilem, the chair of the Squamish Nation council and the co-chair of the UNDRIP task force, said Wednesday the city and the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations already work together in many areas, but the goal is to make shared decision-making standard practice in the city's work.

"Where we arrived to, very organically, was that the relationship needs to start between the City of Vancouver as a government and the three local First Nations governments, because the unceded territory and title and rights starts from there," Khelsilem said.

"The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a framework for reconciliation. I am proud to present the first-ever co-developed strategy between a city and local First Nations to implement UNDRIP," Khelsilem said in a news release.

The recommendations are sorted into themes: social, cultural and economic well-being; ending Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination; self-determination and inherent right of self-government; and rights and title of Indigenous peoples.

Among the calls to action are prioritizing access to cultural sites for the nations' members and developing a policy to assess industrial infrastructure development through the lens of Indigenous rights and environmental racism.

The report also recommends the Vancouver Police Department work with Indigenous peoples to integrate into its operations the principles of the UNDRIP and recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Musqueam Indian Band Chief Wayne Sparrow says he hopes Vancouver can serve as a role model for other B.C. municipalities in adopting UNDRIP.

"With the presentation of this final report, Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and the City of Vancouver are making history and demonstrating what can happen when we come together as truly collaborative partners," he said in a press release.

"We encourage all local governments to take note of the work we are doing here in Vancouver and consider how they can work towards implementing UNDRIP in a meaningful way in their own communities."

Musqueam Chief Wayne Sparrow says he hopes Vancouver can serve as a role model for other B.C. municipalities in adopting UNDRIP. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Vancouver city council unanimously adopted a motion in March 2021 to create an UNDRIP task force in partnership with the nations, which produced what officials say is the first co-developed strategy to implement the United Nations declaration between a municipality and Indigenous governments in Canada.

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