Repatriation of Indigenous Human Remains in Canada: An Analysis of the Issue and Relevant Policies


  • Charlie Hook


Indigenous, human remains, repatriation, policies


On June 21, 2021, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) came into force as legislation in Canada, becoming the first real piece of legislation governing the use and repatriation of Indigenous artefacts and human remains in the country. Although Canada has had stories of successful repatriation prior to UNDRIP becoming law, most of the literature on the subject of repatriation and relevant policies come from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. This paper proposes to look at the issue of the repatriation of Indigenous human remains and relevant policies in Canada through the lens of said literature available from other countries. The main threads through which this subject is analysed are the material and cultural importance of repatriation to Indigenous communities; the flaws in existing legislation and policies, both in Canada and abroad; and the lack of financial resources available to ensure the full enforcement of existing legislation and policies, to Indigenous groups seeking the repatriation of their cultural and human remains, as well as voluntary repatriation efforts from institutions not under legislative or policy obligations. This paper ultimately finds that existing legislation is inadequate, as it favours settler values, states, and institutions, rather than the cultural and material importance of repatriation for Indigenous communities.


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