A call has been raised for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to unconditionally endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In the March throne speech, Harper said Canada would endorse the declaration, but only according to it’s own constitution and laws. Aboriginal groups are opposed to Harper’s condition because they think it will limit the scope of the declaration.
Ellen Gabriel, president of Quebec Native Women Inc., expressed concerns about the federal government’s announcement.
“It’s disappointing that the federal government continues to raise the spectre of a potential conflict between the declaration and the Canadian Constitution,” Gabriel said.
Grand Chief Edward John, First Nations Summit, a B.C. group that provides a forum to address issues around treaty negotiations, said Canada’s endorsement must send a clear signal that the government intends to work with Indigenous peoples to ensure that Canada’s laws, policies and practices at least live up to the minimum standards established by the international community.
The Quebec Native Women, the First Nations Summit and 37 other Aboriginal and civil society organizations from across Canada sent Harper an open letter calling on him to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner consistent with international human rights law.
“Organizations concerned for the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada and around the world want Canada to show leadership by publicly endorsing the declaration,” said Merrill Stewart, clerk with the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers).
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), said the declaration is a vital tool for interpreting and implementing Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada’s Constitution.
The UN General Assembly adopted the declaration in September 2007 as a set of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.
Like other declarations, it is universally applicable.
Canada was one of only four states to vote against the declaration at the UN General Assembly. Since then, Australia and New Zealand have changed their positions while the United States is doing a public review of its position.
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