The shine dulls on the Liberal pledge to adopt the UN Declaration

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It’s easy to overlook the difference between words and action, especially when the words are something you’ve been waiting to hear for decades.

But there’s a cold realization seeping in that our shiny new prime minister may have been fudging it when he promised before last fall’s election that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) would be “adopted” by his government. Despite his social media savvy, since taking power Justin Trudeau has preferred to let his smile and bare torso do the talking while keeping silent about the issues that matter.

At the recent AGA of the Assembly of First Nations in Niagara Falls, federal Minister of Justice Judy Wilson-Reybold (a former BC Regional Chief of the AFN) appeared to be heavily managing expectations when she asked, “Collectively, are we ready to implement UNDRIP?”

This version of Parliament boasts a record 10 Indigenous MPs, eight of whom are Liberals. One has already voted against a study devoted to the idea of a guaranteed minimum wage, minutes after delivering a 48-minute speech promoting the concept. Barely 10 months after they were elected, institutional inertia already appears to be catching up with the federal Liberals, their Indigenous MPs and their promises.  

“Both the Liberal and Conservative parties have been governing this country for the past 150 years. If people were expecting real change, that’s like asking the Titanic to turn on a dime. The political machine is so deeply rooted against Indigenous peoples in this country. It’s very difficult to change,” observes New Democratic Party MP Romeo Saganash.          

Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou MP Romeo Saganash

Abitibi-Baie James-Nunavik-Eeyou MP Romeo Saganash

Saganash, who hails from Waswanipi, has taken the lead in the fight to have UNDRIP recognized as law on Parliament Hill. “It’s time to stop talking about it and do something about it,” Saganash told the Nation.

In April, he tabled the Private Member’s Bill C-262, which aims to make all laws of Canada compliant with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. “So far the indication from the Liberals isn’t very clear. We’re trying to hold the Trudeau government to their promises,” said Saganash.

Since tabling the bill, Saganash has begun a national tour to rally Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups in support of the bill. More recently, he’s started an online petition in support of the implementing UNDRIP.

Saganash notes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the Canadian government to fully adopt and implement UNDRIP as the framework for reconciliation. He feels it’s crucial that people support the petition to force the federal Liberals to keep their word.

“Accountability and integrity is an indispensable mile-marker on the road to reconciliation,” Saganash insisted. “If reconciliation is to mean anything, we all need to be in it together.”

The petition can be signed at

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