Saskatoon

Saskatoon to look into implementing UN Indigenous rights declaration

Saskatoon city councillors have voted in favour of examining the possibility of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

UNDRIP affirms right of Indigenous people to language, self-determination

Mayor Charlie Clark and Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand sign a memo of understanding on a project in 2017. (CBC)

Saskatoon city councillors have voted in favour of examining the possibility of implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

At a meeting of the governance and priorities committee on Monday, councillors voted unanimously in favour of administration writing a report on how UNDRIP could be implemented at a local level, and what potential financial and other effects might come with it being enacted.

In his motion, Mayor Charlie Clark noted that many other Canadian cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, are in the process of implementing the declaration, and said there is no reason why Saskatoon should not go down a similar road.

"We're not the only municipality to go down this road by any means," said Clark.

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

In June, the Canadian senate passed Bill C-15, designed to harmonize Canadian law with UNDRIP. That bill has now received formal assent.

In a letter, the Saskatoon Tribal Council asked the mayor to implement the declaration.

"Adopting and implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is about building a better country for Indigenous peoples and all Canadians, now and in the future," read the letter from Chief Mark Arcand. 

"The same can be said for the City of Saskatoon to be a true leader in reconciliation, honouring Indigenous relations."

Clark said implementing UNDRIP would bolster relations with the tribal council, and shore up already-existing partnerships with the city's urban reserves and the White Buffalo Youth Lodge.

"Given how strong these partnerships are forming and building, to me, the hand has been reached out for us to to work with the tribal council," said Clark.

"This is a way we can we can take that hand and take a step forward."

While a member of the public raised concerns that the city had written many reports on reconciliation in the past, and that this would be a duplication of efforts, city officials noted this was the first time UNDRIP implementation would be examined in Saskatoon.

There is no timeline set for when the report will be presented to councillors.

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