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Vancouver poised to become first city to adopt UN declaration on Indigenous rights

Task force on Indigenous rights releases report drafted by city, First Nations officials
Squamish Nation councillor Khelsilem, left, raises his hands to incoming city councillors after presenting them with a copy of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples task force report in Vancouver, on Wednesday, October 19, 2022. The final report is a result of a partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation. According to the task force it is the first co-developed strategy between Indigenous nations and a municipal government in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Vancouver could become the first city in Canada to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with a plan developed alongside the three First Nations on whose territory the city is located.

A joint task force with city officials and members of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations has produced a report with 79 calls to action aimed at implementing the United Nations declaration in Vancouver.

The report has passed through the councils of the three nations and it will be considered by city council on Oct. 25 with a recommendation that it be endorsed.

The release of the report today was marked with a ceremony, with attendees including outgoing Mayor Kennedy Stewart; the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, RoseAnne Archibald; and B.C. regional chief Terry Teegee.

Squamish council chairperson and task force co-chair Khelsilem told the gatheringthe strategy came about because of a “genuine, mutual respect” between those involved, and a desire to create a meaningful pathway for reconciliation in the city.

The recommendations are sorted into themes: social, cultural and economic well-being; ending Indigenous-specific racism and discrimination; self-determination and inherent right of self-government; and rights and title of Indigenous Peoples.

Among the calls to action are prioritizing access to cultural sites for the nations’ members and developing a policy to assess industrial infrastructure development through the lens of Indigenous rights and environmental racism.

The report also recommends the Vancouver Police Department work with Indigenous Peoples to integrate into its operations the principles of the United Nations declaration and recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Vancouver city council unanimously adopted a motion in March 2021 to create an UNDRIP task force in partnership with the nations, which produced what officials say is the first co-developed strategy to implement the United Nations declaration between a municipality and Indigenous governments in Canada.

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