NWAC: Canada’s UNDRIP Action Plan ignores the vital role of Indigenous people in regaining their own power and place

Published on June 21, 2023

Press release eng

Ottawa – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) says Canada’s plan for implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) fails to affirm the role of Indigenous women as reconciliation leaders.

Today, Canada tabled an UNDRIP Action Plan promising a path toward reconciliation that would undo centuries of colonial harms. But NWAC says it falls short for gendered groups.

“We pointed out to the government, at every opportunity, that the UNDRIP Action Plan must account for and dismantle the barriers Indigenous women face when accessing their rights,” said NWAC CEO Lynne Groulx. “The Action Plan we see today does not treat us as leaders with important insights to advance reconciliation goals.”

The UNDRIP was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2007 and officially supported by Canada nine years later. Indigenous People, including the women, girls, two-spirit, trans, and gender-diverse people represented by NWAC, have affirmed that it sets the minimum standard of human rights required to ensure their wellbeing now and for future generations.

In June 2021, Canada tabled the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act which set a two-year timeline for developing a plan to align Canada’s laws with the international human rights treaty.

Since then, NWAC has gathered perspectives from it grassroots community members, legal academics, Indigenous women, youth, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, two-spirit, transgendered and gender-diverse people to identify their priorities for Canada’s UNDRIP Action Plan.

The final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concludes that Indigenous Women in Canada face deeply rooted, systemic discrimination that amounts to genocide, and is a clear violation of the UNDRIP.

The UNDRIP Action Plan tabled today acknowledges the gender-based harms and violence. But Ms.Groulx says it does not recognize that Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people must have a voice in reshaping the structures that disempower them.

In reviewing the Action Plan, NWAC did not identify any specific measures that would give Indigenous women, two-spirit, transgender and gender-diverse people leadership roles to steer their own course in reclaiming and affirming their Indigenous rights. These include the right to Indigenous language, secure housing, culturally appropriate healthcare, Indigenous justice, and economic opportunities.

Indigenous women hold vital responsibilities to their families and communities, and in advancing reconciliation. NWAC says they require more than a mere acknowledgement in Canada’s UNDRIP Action Plan of the gender-specific injustices they have experienced.

“Indigenous women need action empowering them. They need action to restore their rightful places as matriarchs, leaders, water protectors and Knowledge Keepers,” says Ms. Groulx. “The next generations are watching to see how Canada affirms their rights.”

Canada promises that its Action Plan will be “evergreen” and says it is designed to evolve in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous partners. Ms. Groulx says while she hopes the government is true to its word and that it will take seriously the feedback from NWAC and other Indigenous organizations, realistically, she is doubtful.

“We’ve heard this story many times before,” said Ms Groulx. “The government should know better than to treat gender equality as an ‘evergreen issue … after all, it’s 2023.”


About The Native Women’s Association of Canada

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a national Indigenous organization representing political voices of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people in Canada. NWAC is inclusive of First Nations—on- and off-reserve, status, non-status, and disenfranchised—Inuit, and Métis. An aggregate of Indigenous women’s organizations from across the country, NWAC was founded on a collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster social, economic, cultural, and political well-being of Indigenous women, girls, Two-Spirit, transgender, and gender-diverse people within their respective communities and Canadian societies.

À propos de l'Association des femmes autochtones du Canada

L'Association des femmes autochtones du Canada (AFAC) est une organisation autochtone nationale qui représente la voix politique des femmes, des filles, des transgenres, des bispirituels et des personnes de sexe différent au Canada, y compris les membres des Premières nations vivant dans les réserves et hors réserve, les Indiens inscrits et non inscrits, les personnes privées de leurs droits, les Métis et les Inuits. Regroupant des organisations de femmes autochtones de tout le pays, l'AFAC a été fondée dans le but collectif d'améliorer, de promouvoir et de favoriser le bien-être social, économique, culturel et politique des femmes autochtones au sein de leurs communautés respectives et des sociétés canadiennes.