OTTAWA -- Canada´s move to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was welcomed as a positive development by the Assembly of First Nations.
The endoresement was announced at UN headquarters in New York on Friday, three years after Canada being just one of four states to vote against the declaration.
"It´s something that we welcome," said Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
The endorsement of the declaration -- non-binding statement of principles for dealing with native groups -- fulfills a pledge made in the speech from the throne last March.
A government news release said of the declaration: "It sets out a number of principles that should guide harmonious and co-operative relationships between indigenous peoples and states, such as equality, partnership, good faith and mutual respect. Canada strongly supports these principles."
Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan said the endorsement of the document is part of an effort by the government to strengthen its relationship with aboriginal peoples.
"Canada´s aboriginal leadership has spoken with passion on the importance of endorsing the declaration," Duncan added. "Today´s announcement represents another important milestone on the road to respect and co-operation."
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said the move shows Canada remains committed to promoting and protecting the rights of natives.
Canada --along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States -- voted against the declaration when it was adopted by the General Assembly in September 2007.
At the time, the government said it objected to some of the wording, including articles dealing with lands and resources and self -government. It said many of these rights should be negotiated, not imposed by the UN.
Now, it says it has decided it´s better to endorse the declaration and explain its concerns, rather than reject the whole document.
The document, hammered out over 20 years of talks between diplomats and representatives of aboriginal groups from around the world, says indigenous peoples have a number of rights ----to their lands, culture, and languages, among other things -- and that governments should work to protect these rights.
Atleo said he´s pressed hard for the endorsement, saying he´s raised it at every meeting he´s had with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The national chief said he´s not worried that the declaration isn´t binding and does nothing to change Canadian law.
"I think it has an important role," he said. "It can provide us with a framework, with a guide, if you will.
"For example, one of the articles says indigenous peoples have the right to design education systems that work for them and let´s get on with the work of forging a much better reality for First Nations education success."
He said it´s a symbol: "It suggests that we have work to do and it´s got to be done jointly."
Atleo said the formal endorsement is "a signal being made by Canada that they are prepared to work in partnership with us."
But he said much remains to be done.
"It needs to be about action," he said. "The endorsement is welcome, now it´s about, let´s set out a work plan that´s going to achieve real change for the people."
Source: Assembly of First Nations
National Chief Welcomes Canada’s Endorsement of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Respect, Partnership and Reconciliation will Guide Work to Improve the situation of First Nation Peoples and Build a Stronger Canada
OTTAWA, ON: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated that Canada’s endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a positivedevelopment that sets the stage for a new approach to building stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada.
“Today marks an important shift in our relationship and now the real work begins,” National Chief Atleo said. “Now is our time to work together towards a new era of fairness and justice for First Nations and a stronger Canada for all Canaians, guided by the Declaration’s core principles of respect, partnership and reconciliation. First Nations have worked long and hard to set out constructive and effective approaches and to abandon the colonial relationhip embodied in the Indian Act that has held back our people and this country. We are ready to move now – today – on our key priorities including education.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada committed to endorsing the UN Declaration in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. The UNDRIP has the distinction of being the only Declaration within the United Nations which was drafted with the rights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples of the world.
“Today is important, not as the culmination of our efforts, but as the beginning of a new approach and a new agenda,” the National Chief stated. “Canada’s apology for the residential schools in 2008 was a critical moment to acknowledge the pain of the past. Endorsing the Declaration is the opportunity to look forward and re-set the relationship between First Nations and the Crown so it is consistent with the Treaties and other agreements with First ations upon which this country was founded. In endorsing the UN Declaration, Canada is committing to work with us as a true partner to achieve reconciliation as instructed by the courts in Canada.
I congratulate Canada in taking another step towards the promotion and protection of human and fundamental freedoms for all.”
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations in Canada.