Northern Saskatchewan’s member of parliament is back home after traveling to the United States.
Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River MP Gary Vidal recently traveled to New York to the United Nations (UN) as part of Canada’s delegation to the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Vidal, who serves as the Shadow Minister for Crown Indigenous Relations, was invited to join the delegation by Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations Marc Miller. Vidal explained people from all over the world were present at the forum.
“It was leaders both of governments and of Indigenous peoples from all parts of the world gathering together in New York to talk about a number of issues that affect Indigenous people worldwide,” he said.
The most recent meeting of the permanent forum on Indigenous issues was the 21st meeting since the body was established in 2000. The forum is an advisory body which has a mandate to advise on a range of issues affecting Indigenous people including economic and social development, education, culture, health along with human rights overall. Vidal said the issue of economic development was a big source of discussion at the recent meetings.
“A number of the forums and sessions that I went to were actually focused on kind of economic reconciliation and the role, the realization of economic potential for Indigenous people and how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People affects that,” he said.
Officially Canada was represented at the forum by the Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations and ministry staff, while Vidal was present as an observer. The member of parliament for northern Saskatchewan said this status provided him the chance to have talks with a number of people. Vidal added it was nice to hear from people around the world who are dealing with many of the same challenges being faced in Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River.
“For me sometimes I think maybe some of the challenges are unique to us in Canada or unique to us in Northern Saskatchewan, but their not, their issues that are faced by people all over the world,” he said.
After taking part in the forum Vidal said he has a better understanding of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), specifically how the declaration can be used when working to develop projects in Indigenous communities and giving those communities a say on important questions around those projects.
“I think we have to realize that, that is both it is the right to say yes, it is also the right to say no, we have to build relationships we have to work with the people, the representatives of the people when we’re working through those processes, in the context of projects and economic reconciliation,” he said.
Overall Vidal said it is important to take any opportunity to learn and better oneself in order to be a better representative, which he feels attending the recent forum did for him. He said the experience was one he was happy to be a part of.
“One of the things that I found really cool was, here’s a small town boy from Northern Saskatchewan sitting in a great big room with people from literally all over the world and that was a little bit overwhelming at first when I kind of looked around and you see all the name plates of all these different countries,” he said.
(Photo Courtesy of Gary Vidal Twitter: MP Gary Vidal at the United Nations in New York.)