• Indigenous Climate Action

Indigenous Climate Action at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues


Thanks to the hard work of Ellen Gabriel, Danika Littlechild, Priscilla Settee, and Ron Tremblay. We managed to submit an intervention on behalf of ICA under agenda item 4. But first a bit of background of the UNPFII.

This year’s theme at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) was “Tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: measures taken to implement the Declaration.” This is the sixteenth session of the UNPFII this year. You can find more information on the Permanent Forum and this years meeting here: United Nations Permanent Forum.

“The Forum was established on 28 July 2000 by resolution 2000/22, with the mandate to deal with indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, health and human rights.

More specifically, the Permanent Forum:

  • provides expert advice and recommendations on indigenous issues to the Council, as well as to programmes, funds and agencies of the United Nations, through ECOSOC;

  • raises awareness and promotes the integration and coordination of activities related to indigenous issues within the UN system;

  • prepares and disseminates information on indigenous issues The Permanent Forum holds annual two-week sessions.

The Permanent Forum is one of three UN bodies that is mandated to deal specifically with indigenous peoples’ issues. The others are the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Special Rapporteur Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

There are many people in our ICA network that have experience and knowledge related to the UN system. As you might know Indigenous Peoples have been lobbying the UN since it was the League of Nations after World War two. If you have questions some of the people I rely on for expert advice are Ellen Gabriel, Danika Littlechild and Ron Tremblay; who have participated for many years. We have relationships with many organizations like the Seventh Generation Fund, Indigenous Environmental Network and the International Indian Treaty Council who all have extensive knowledge on the UN system.

Going back to this year’s session and why it matters, well the Liberal’s and Justin Trudeau in the campaign for elections promised the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). For some background information on the history of UNDRIP you can read that here Historical Overview. UNDRIP according to the UN does the following:

“Today the Declaration is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedoms as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples.”

Why does this matter if you live in Canada? Well we all know that no Canadian government in 150 years of existence has not upheld its promises to Indigenous Peoples. It has not honored its word. Since colonization began the new comers to North America came for the lands and resources, at the time being furs, food and settlement. In the present day this process of colonization has not stopped. It has only changed form to resource extraction in the form of oil & gas development, mining, mega hydro dams, logging, and so much more.

We have only recently begun to understand the cummilative impacts all this development has done including human settlement. I might argue with the settlement of Canada came predatory capitalism that has forced our people to exploit the land resources without a choice, the ability to say no and without proper recourse.

Article 19 of UNDRIP specifically talks about the right to Free, Prior, Informed, Consent. This gives Indigenous Peoples the right to say no to development or harm to the lands and water. This part of UNDRIP is key in terms of communities fighting to protect their lands and water from harm. Overall UNDRIP is an amazing declaration, it took almost 20 years to create in several languages by Indigenous Peoples globally using consensus. There is more information on specifically to Free, Prior, Informed, Consent.

The implementation of UNDRIP within Canada, could open the possibility of protection of our rights, and our lands but on our terms. Instead the governments response to implementation was that this couldn’t be done within the current legal system and Canadian constitution. With no efforts or process to engage our communities on the realm of possibility in terms of implementation.

For ICA the broken promises of the Liberal government also include the commitments to climate action. The new Minister of Climate Change has built the Pan-Canadian Framework for Climate Change on a very aggressive timeline. However our analysis as ICA is that PCFCC hasn’t changed from a Harper conservative government to the Liberals. In terms of the emissions targets. The process for inclusion of Indigenous Peoples was really aggressive too, and didn’t leave time for education and awareness that our communities need, or for Indigenous governance processes to be respected, and the inclusion of grassroots people within the national Indigenous consultation process. For ICA, this wasn’t good enough but we haven’t decided our level of involvement yet on Canada government initiatives. But we do have an expert opinion on these processes.

The invention is the formal process to make recommendations to the UNPFII on the agenda items for the year’s session. Danika Littlechild was our main drafter on the ICA Intervention. We wanted to highlighted the following:

“There are approximately 66 past Permanent Forum recommendations on climate, and only 6 have been completed or implemented, while at least two have not yet been initiated.

Indigenous Climate Action therefore recommends that:

  1. The Permanent Forum 17th Session be dedicated to addressing Climate Change as a matter of urgency with due consideration of all mandated areas of the Permanent Forum, and with follow-up on past PFII Recommendations;

  2. The Permanent Forum hold a special half day session dedicated to the development of the UNFCCC Indigenous Knowledge Platform;

  3. The Permanent Forum ensure the inclusion of climate change and its impacts in future reports, studies and publications - as a standing/cross-cutting issue in all mandated areas of the Permanent Forum;

  4. The Permanent Forum engage in the development of the UNFCCC Indigenous Knowledge Platform and report on its participation at the 17th Session

  5. The Permanent Forum conduct a study on the impacts of climate change upon Indigenous women for the 17th Session.”

We know that UN system moves at a different pace then our state government. This was a key moment for ICA to establish itself that we are experts in our communities on the issues that affect us. Especially related to climate change.


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