United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Answering Questions, Addressing Misconceptions


Like many CRC people I’m white, and my last name (Veenstra) is a dead giveaway for my Dutch heritage. I remember the turmoil I felt when Tim Bosma was killed. It felt so random, so unexpected, a man selling a truck goes out with buyers and doesn’t come back. I didn’t know him or his family but with a Dutch name, we could probably play Dutch bingo and come up with a match. 

And I think what gave me such a sense of uneasiness was the fact that this could have been MY father. I can clearly picture my Dad going on a simple test drive to sell a truck. This was the first time I’d experienced news about violent crime that connected in this way to my understanding of myself. 

So when my colleague Shannon Perez sent me this article I thought, every day Shannon experiences the anxiety that I experienced one time. Every day she sees someone in the news and thinks, "this could have been MY son." What would that be like? What a heavy burden to carry. To live with the uneasy feeling that every new story about violence against Indigenous people is someone connected to you (or if you don’t know them directly, you probably know someone who did). 

And that’s why implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration) as a step towards reconciliation is so important. Your heritage and identity should not dictate how much violence you experience. Our current legislation is broken. If you want to know how broken we suggest you start with 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act by Bob Joseph. The premise that Indigenous culture is worthless, and legislation backing that up that assumption, has created an environment for water crises, suicide crises, and racism so deep that a community minded hockey player can be shot dead while enjoying a night out with friends.  

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples offers a new framework for the relationship between settlers and Indigenous groups.  The Declaration is the first step towards saying there’s a new relationship, there’s mutual respect, and a new way forward. This video series is intended to help people understand why advocating for the Declaration to be implemented is important and to clear up misconceptions.  

So join us in conversation with Jennifer Preston. Jennifer is a settler and coordinates the Indigenous Rights program for Canadian Friends Service Committee (CFSC), the justice arm of Quakers in Canada. Jennifer worked in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in the UN Working Groups that developed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and was involved in the intensive lobbying efforts to ensure the adoption of the Declaration in both Geneva and New York. Her work now focuses on implementation. 

So if you’ve had the privilege of never or rarely feeling news of violence hit close to home join us in stepping into someone else’s shoes, of building empathy and understanding for the experiences of neighbours. Start with these videos and think about what you can do to help implement the Declaration and change the narrative around the value of Indigenous heritage and culture.

You can read the full Declaration here or listen to a shortened version here

What can you do?  

Written by Victoria Veenstra - Justice Communications Team Coordinator 

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