Implementation of UNDRIP 'long overdue' says key figure who helped draft it

"If it happens, I'll be very, very happy. It's something that's long overdue," said former Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses.

Cree Nation government says Liberal's Bill C-15 key to reconciliation

Former Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses (left) and Romeo Saganash, lawyer and former NDP MP, pictured in 2000. The two men were very involved in the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. (Le Presse Canadienne/Jacques Boissinot)

News of the federal government's tabling of a bill which, if passed, would mean the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is being welcomed by one of the architects of the declaration. 

Former Cree Nation Grand Chief Ted Moses who, along with a young Romeo Saganash, was a key figure in the drafting of UNDRIP over many years, says he is pleased to see it get another chance of becoming law in Canada. 

"If it happens, I'll be very, very happy. It's something that's long overdue," said Moses. 

UNDRIP was passed by the UN General Assembly in 2007. It affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples to their language, culture, self-determination and traditional lands. It also establishes "minimum standards for the survival and well-being" of Indigenous people, according to the UN.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti tabled Bill C-15 in early December. It builds upon Bill C-262, a private members bill tabled by Saganash when he was an NDP MP, which failed to make it through the Senate in 2019.

The opposition to Saganash's bill centered on a fear that it would give Indigenous nations too much power to veto development projects, something Moses says is an outdated fear. 

The objective [of UNDRIP] is not to veto.- Ted Moses, former Cree Grand Chief 

"The objective is not to veto," said Moses. "It's to create a standard that each Aboriginal group could have that opportunity to at least benefit from a project." 

Moses said the Quebec Cree Nation is an example of a better way for resource extraction projects to move ahead. 

Through successive treaties and agreements, such as the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement signed in 1975 and the Paix des Braves, signed in 2002 among others, there are obligations for governments and developers to consult and an environmental review process under which developers must submit their projects for approval, said Moses. 

"When you do things properly, as is the case of the Crees ... the development can benefit everyone," said Moses. 

Former Cree Grand Chief Ted Moses speaking at former Quebec premier Bernard Landry's funeral in 2018. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Bill C-15 is an important step forward and reflects the importance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, according to Bill Namagoose, executive director of the Cree Nation government. 

"This legislation will contribute to ensuring that historic injustices, colonialism and the instances of systemic discrimination can be addressed," said Namagoose in a press release. 

For the Cree Nation's current grand chief, Abel Bosum, Bill C-15 is an "essential framework for reconciliation.

"We are extremely pleased to see this legislation tabled," said Bosum in a press release.

He added that the Cree are "particularly grateful" to Moses and Saganash for their work on UNDRIP.

It was through efforts by the two men that the Cree Nation was granted NGO (non-governmental organization) status at the United Nations in 1987. 

Moses also served as an ambassador for the United Nations for many years.

He is currently the president of the Secretariat to the Cree Nation Abitibi-Témiscamingue Economic Alliance.