Restoring Indigenous Rights

How Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Can Advance Climate Justice in Canada

August 2020
By Keira Kang
Download the paper (PDF)

There is profound wisdom in Indigenous teachings about the interconnectedness of all creation. Many Indigenous Peoples view nature with deep respect. It is of paramount importance to many Indigenous groups to foster, appreciate, and preserve relationships with inanimate and animate aspects of Creation. Respecting this relationship is critical for ecological and economic integrity, right relations with Indigenous peoples, and for a holistic, just recovery from the pandemic.

However, Indigenous homelands, now located in Canada, face growing threats from federal, provincial, and territorial government projects as well as corporate interests that continue to push for urbanization and resource extraction. This has led to environmental degradation, land appropriation, and disregard of Indigenous rights to self-determination and traditional stewardship of lands.

This continuation of environmental-related inequities requires the immediate, full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The UN Declaration not only respects Indigenous Peoples in their desire and right to manage their natural environment for future generations, but also their full agency in shaping their own socio-economic and political development.

Restoring Indigenous Rights draws on the invaluable insights of Indigenous activists, scholars, and experts to explore how implementing the UN Declaration can advance climate justice in Canada. It seeks to prioritize the lived experiences of Indigenous Peoples in CPJ’s analysis of the UN Declaration and to place their sovereign rights at the heart of our work for climate justice.

  • Part 1 of this paper provides some terminology pertaining to Indigenous Peoples in Canada in order to unlearn our mainstream misinterpretations of Indigenous-related terms and honour the immense breadth of Indigenous knowledge and culture that make up the character of this country.
  • Part 2 examines several legal frameworks that continue to affect Indigenous lands, air, resources, heritage, and livelihoods.
  • Part 3 explores stories and perspectives of Indigenous Peoples from climate justice groups across Canada to point to key articles in the UN Declaration that urgently need to be implemented in Canada.

This paper aims to deepen CPJ’s understanding of what it means to advance towards trust-based allyship with Indigenous Peoples in the context of climate justice in Canada. It is one step in our journey to ensure that Indigenous knowledge guides and informs the climate justice work of CPJ. We hope it can serve as a starting point in seeking deeper conversations with environmental activists, Indigenous knowledge keepers, Elders, Chiefs, and other individuals of Indigenous heritage across Canada.

Download the paper (PDF)


  • Keira Kang is CPJ's public justice intern - ecological justice.

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