LETTER: MP’s should represent all constituents

I was recently on the House of Commons of Canada website and noticed that our MP, Mel Arnold, had voted against the following:

• Bills # 93, 117, and 119 re: An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP).

On numerous occasions, I have heard MP Arnold state that he represents ALL the constituents in the North Okanagan Shuswap riding. It made me wonder just how many constituents could be negatively impacted by his voting to not support UNDRIP.

I used 2016 Census data and found that approximately seven per cent of our riding identifies as Aboriginal. Of that seven per cent, 49 per cent identify as Firs

t Nations and 48 per cent as Metis.

UNDRIP establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world. It lays out the basic rights that Indigenous peoples should be afforded. It outlines specific obligations on the part of nations in how they relate to Indigenous peoples and their land and contains some clauses that fly in the face of Canada’s historic treatment of First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Canada has a history of denial of Aboriginal rights and title and continues to have conflicts over major resource extraction projects. Some in our government are not prepared to fully face the implications of UNDRIP and how it will challenge Canada’s current legal frameworks.

A main sticking point for some is Indigenous sovereignty and self-determination. Disputes over access to land, natural resources and water are at the heart of many of the recent disputes between Indigenous people and Ottawa.

Indigenous peoples are often arrested and criminalized for exercising sovereignty over their traditional lands. Patricia Doyle-Bedwell, a Mi’kmaq lawyer and professor at Dalhousie University said, “The power of UNDRIP lies in its ability to strengthen Indigenous rights to protect land and water. That is what this is about. We are not going to have anything if we don’t have our land. We have the right to our survival, our dignity, our way of being as Indigenous people.”

UNDRIP is not privileging Indigenous peoples with a set of rights unique to them.

It wants to make sure that Indigenous people enjoy, and benefit from, the same human rights that non-Indigenous peoples benefit from. I expect that voters would want to vote for an MP that would work towards reconciliation and an improved relationship with his/her Indigenous constituents.

Jane Weix, Vernon