Alberta First Nations criticize federal UNDRIP legislation

By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) calls on governments to “consult and cooperate in good faith” with Indigenous communities “to obtain their free, prior and informed consent” for any law that impacts them. 

Yet First Nations in Alberta say that the federal government’s law to implement UNDRIP was done without adequately consulting them. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government endorsed UNDRIP in 2016 and passed legislation in 2021 to bring its laws into compliance with the declaration within two years. 

Tsuut’ina Nation Minor Chief Regena Crowchild told the Edmonton Journal that while the government adopting UNDRIP was the right move, its ambition to treat First Nations the same as municipalities betrays a lack of understanding what First Nations are calling for. 

“They talk to organizations, and we have some of our chiefs there, but there was no direct consultation with us to address the unfinished business of our treaties, and they’re moving away from the treaties,” Crowchild said. 

Ttsuut’tina is one of 16 First Nations in Alberta and Saskatchewan that have signed an open letter protesting the feds’ approach to implementing UNDRIP. The others are:


  • Onion Lake Cree Nation 
  • O’Chiese First Nation 
  • Kehewin Cree Nation 
  • Saddle Lake First Nation 
  • James Smith Cree Nation 
  • Beaver Lake Cree Nation 
  • Beaver First Nation
  • Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation 
  • Cold Lake First Nation 
  • Alexander First Nation 
  • Frog Lake First Nation 
  • Louis Bull Tribe 
  • Montana First Nation 
  • Ermineskin Cree Nation 
  • Ochapowace Nation


The nations plan to rally at the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton on July 1. 

The government unveiled its five-year plan to implement UNDRIP on June 21, which marks both National Indigenous Peoples Day and Summer Solstice. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti acknowledged the plans were imperfect, but that the government intends to conduct more consultation. 

“There’s more work to be done, more consultation to be done,” he said in Ottawa.

The open letter characterizes the government’s timing of its announcement as “deceptive — while our people are celebrating our culture, language and existence.” 

Onion Lake Cree Nation Chief Henry Lewis told the Journal that the feds’ plan is a “reboot of the failed 1969 White Paper.”

The White Paper, brought forward by then-justice minister Jean Chretien sought to abolish the Indian Act without a replacement. 

The current plan, which includes 181 measures, seeks to gradually move away from the Indian Act. 

Tsuut’ina Chief Roy Whitney told the Journal that Treaty rights must be respected throughout the entire process. 

“Abolishing the Indian Act without returning to the path of treaty continues to violate our right to free prior and informed consent. Repeal of the act puts our land at risk and moves us into a municipal structure of land governance — in violation of our treaty,” Whitney said. 

 The national Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP), which represents Indigenous people who live off reserve and includes the Indigenous Congress of Alberta Association, said the Liberals’ plan is “devoid” of their input. 

“The exclusion of CAP and its recommendations are just another way to attempt to further colonize and assimilate our communities, who represent all Aboriginal distinctions, including off-reserve status and non-status Indians, Métis, and southern Inuit Indigenous peoples,” the congress said in a statement. 

CAP vice president Kim Beaudin told the Brandon Sun that the plan ignores the needs of Indigenous people who aren’t affiliated with their band leadership. 

“There are thousands of people who don’t have a voice — they don’t have a voice with their band, or they’ve actually been ignored by their First Nation band,” said Beaudin. “We’ve been fighting tooth and nail to make sure nobody is forgotten about — it doesn’t matter if you’re on- or off-reserve.”

Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Chief Roseanne Archibald, however, said that while some Indigenous groups may not be fully onboard with the plan, most support it. 

Terry Teegee, the AFN’s British Columbia regional chief, said in a June 21 media release that the federal plan is a crucial step towards undoing 200 years of colonization, but it must be done properly at every step.

“We will hold the government accountable to ensure the work on this plan does not take a similar pace. It is essential that we establish clear accountability mechanisms and take tangible steps to ensure the implementation [of] this plan into meaningful change for First Nations,” Teegee said.  


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