November 1, 2006
Conservative government increasingly isolated in its unprincipled opposition to vital human rights instrument
With the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples set to receive final consideration and historic adoption by the UN General Assembly, Aboriginal peoples and human rights organizations in Canada are welcoming a show of support by the three parties representing the majority of Canadian parliamentarians.
On Tuesday, the House Committee on Aboriginal Affairs adopted a resolution calling on the government to support the immediate adoption of the Declaration. The seven committee members representing the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP supported the resolution, while the three Conservative members opposed.
This week, the Declaration is being debated at a Committee of the UN General Assembly. If supported by the Third Committee, the Declaration, which has already been adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, will pass to the plenary of the General Assembly for adoption by December of this year.
The Declaration, which provides minimum standards for the dignity, survival and well-being of the worlds Indigenous peoples, has been under discussion within the United Nations for more than two decades.
In recent years, Canada had played a key role role in the negotiation of the Declaration and has collaborated with Indigenous peoples to draft a number of the provisions that have been critical in building support among other states.
However, since the election of the Conservative government, Canada has joined with the United States, Australia and New Zealand in denouncing provisions that Canada had previously supported.
In June 2006, the Commons Aboriginal Affairs Committee adopted a resolution calling on the government to support the Declaration at the first meeting of the new UN Human Rights Council. Canadian representatives to the Council instead led the opposition to the Declaration but were able to convince only one other Council member, Russia, to join Canada in voting against the Declaration.
The Conservative government has slowly disclosed a long list of articles that it wants rewritten. However, its arguments to date do not stand up to scrutiny. Nor has it been able to convincingly explain why Canada has reversed its previous position in support of the Declaration.
Indigenous peoples and human rights organizations say that the government should uphold Canadas international reputation, respect the will of Parliament and support the Declaration. However, the Conservative government has rigidly refused to consult Indigenous peoples on this crucial human rights issue and has already announced that Canada will continue to vote against the Declaration.
The Declaration is urgently needed as a major step towards addressing the widespread human rights violations affecting Indigenous peoples globally.
Beth Berton-Hunter, Media Officer
416-363-9933 ext 32
Bryan Hendry. Communications Director
Assembly of First Nations
613-241-6789 ext 229
Adiat Junaid, Communications Coordinator
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
416.463.5312 ext 223
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Linda Kayseas, Media Coordinator
Native Women's Association of Canada
613-722-3033, ext. 231
Rights & Democracy
514-283-6073, ext. 261