The status and rights of indigenous peoples in international law : the quest for equality


University of British Columbia

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Doctor of Philosophy - PhD




My thesis is that Indigenous peoples, as distinct people, are entitled to the full affirmation and explicit recognition of the right to self-determination in the context of the draft U N Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in international law generally. The international community, and in particular, the nation-state members of the United Nations must uphold their legally binding international obligations in this regard. My methodology has been to utilize the human rights framework and approach, as well as rights discourse to advance this thesis. In addition, I am relying upon my direct participation in this important standard setting process, as well as the writings of various publicists. The right of peoples to self-determination is considered by numerous international authorities to be jus cogens or a peremptory norm. Similarly, the prohibition of racial discrimination is considered by numerous authorities to be a peremptory norm. Throughout the draft Declaration debate, a number of states have proposed wording that would dramatically alter the scope and content of the right to selfdetermination, thereby limiting, qualifying or modifying this right in the context of indigenous peoples. Any state proposals to qualify, limit or modify the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination would be racially discriminatory. If Article 3 of the draft Declaration were to be altered - even to include the same or similar notions as might currently exist under international law - it would invite interpretations to be applied to indigenous peoples' right to self-determination that are different from those of other peoples. It might also have the effect of wrongfully freezing the interpretation of this indigenous human right, in such a manner as to prevent or otherwise stifle its natural evolution under international law. If there is no equality of application of the rule of law in the context of international law and states succeed in introducing discriminatory double standards in connection to indigenous peoples and their fundamental right to self-determination, then the failure of the human rights framework, the United Nations system and nation-states themselves will seriously erode the very concepts of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.


Indigenous peoples -- Legal status, laws, etc; Minorities -- Legal status, laws, etc; International law; Self-determination, National

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Law, Peter A. Allard School of