Today, October 25, 2022, Vancouver City Council passed the City of Vancouver’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) Strategy, as recommended by a Task Force led by the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation. The adoption of the UNDRIP Strategy is historic, positioning Vancouver as a national and global leader in implementing a clear way forward towards reconciliation.
Implementation of the Strategy’s 79 calls-to-action across City departments and services will help fulfill the Task Force’s goal to see Indigenous Peoples achieving full enjoyment of the rights articulated in UNDRIP across Vancouver.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation Councillors Dennis Thomas and Charlene Aleck are members of the UNDRIP Steering Committee guiding the work, while TWN staff are members of the Task Force. The Task Force identified specific calls-to-action under the four themes of the BC Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act):
· Social, cultural, and economic well-being
· Ending Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination
· Self-determination and inherent right of self-government
· Rights and title of Indigenous People
At the start of the Task Force’s presentation in council chambers, Councillor Dennis Thomas shared welcoming remarks and a prayer song by Chief Dan George and thanked Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh family members that are part of the UNDRIP work. Councillor Dennis shared how “this wasn’t just a Task Force, it was an experiential journey, a transformative process.”
Squamish Nation Chairperson and Task Force Co-Chair Khelsilem defined free, prior, and informed consent as a human right – developing a process for a government-to-government relationship based on mutual respect, good faith, and an understanding of shared jurisdiction. Khelsilem also stated: “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. This is implementing a key call-to-action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and becomes a road map for a meaningful and impactful relationship between Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh, with the City of Vancouver, that benefits all of Vancouver.”
City of Vancouver Councillor and Task Force Co-Chair Christine Boyle spoke of how there is much work ahead and how Vancouver is a colonial institution that has upheld harmful colonial laws that result in ongoing inequities. She also stated that, as a City of Reconciliation, “The 79 actions within this UNDRIP Strategy will strengthen Indigenous rights, create new pathways for government-to-government relationships, and improve life for Indigenous people in Vancouver.”
A new intergovernmental committee with representatives from the Host Nations, the City, and urban Indigenous populations will determine what is needed to implement each call-to-action and report back to council with an action plan on how to implement the strategy’s recommendations.