Canada's Record on Indigenous Rights Questioned at UN Human Rights Council

    OTTAWA, Feb. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - The international community has sent a
strong message that the Government of Canada must do more to uphold the human
rights of Indigenous Peoples.
    Canada's human rights record was reviewed by the United Nations Human
Rights Council on Tuesday, February 3 as part of the new Universal Periodic
Review (UPR) process.
    Of the 45 states that spoke during the three -hour session, 30 raised
concerns about the rights of Indigenous peoples. Some of the strongest
recommendations came from states that have traditionally allied with Canada in
the promotion of human rights.
    The United Kingdom, for example, recommended that Canada give its
"highest priority" to addressing "fundamental inequalities" between Aboriginal
and non-Aboriginal people including through "resolution of land claims and
reconciliation of governance and self-government."
    The governments of Norway and Denmark called on Canada to reconsider its
opposition to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The
Norwegian representative said, "We believe the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples is unique as a universal framework for improving
implementation of existing rights of Indigenous peoples in all countries of
the world."
    The government of Norway also called for "comprehensive reporting and
statistical analysis of the scale and character of violence against Indigenous
women so that a national strategy can be initiated in consultation with
Indigenous representatives to respond to the severity of this issue."
    Switzerland expressed concern over the lengthy process for resolving
Indigenous land disputes and the concessions demanded by the government as a
condition for settling claims. Switzerland urged Canada to "redouble its
efforts" to resolve land disputes and to improve the mechanisms for doing so.
    Canada was also questioned about the rights of Indigenous peoples by
states with close economic ties. The government of the Philippines asked, "Is
there specific legislation which covers mining activities in lands claimed by
Indigenous communities? What mechanisms are in place to resolve possible
disputes between private corporations, local and federal government and
Indigenous communities in this regard?"
    Twenty-three states did not have a chance to speak because of time
constraints. They have submitted questions and recommendations in writing. For
example, Zambia recommended Canada "take steps to review its position on the
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, consistent with the
principal of international cooperation and the protection of the international
human rights system as a whole."
    Canada failed to consult with Indigenous peoples' organizations and
domestic human rights groups before submitting its report to the Human Rights
Council. Such consultation is recommended by the UPR process. Unfortunately,
the failure to hold consultations was not made clear in Canada's report or in
yesterday's session, which led some states to congratulate Canada on its
    "The government is working with Aboriginal communities to agree on
priorities," John Sims, the Deputy Minister of Justice, told the UN Human
Rights Council. "The challenges are enormous. The scale of issues to confront
is vast and many of the issues are technically very complex but we're moving
ahead on many fronts: education, entrepreneurship, economic development, land
claims, safe drinking water and so on."
    Indigenous peoples' organizations and human rights groups are calling on
Canada to take the recommendations of the UPR seriously and to engage
constructively with Indigenous peoples and civil society to ensure their
    The report of the Council's UPR Working Group will be released on
Thursday, February 5. The Government of Canada will have until June to
    Video recordings of the session and related documents can be found online

For further information:

For further information: Assembly of First Nations: Don Kelly,
Communications, (613) 241-6789 ext 334,; Gina Cosentino,
Government Relations + International Affairs, National Chief's Office, (613)
241-6789 ext 356,; Amnesty International Canada: Beth
Berton-Hunter, Media Officer, Amnesty International Canada, (416) 363-9933,
ext 32, Cell: (416) 904-7158; Canadian Friends Service Committee: Jennifer
Preston, (416) 920-5213; Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami: Stephen Hendrie, Director of
Communications, Cell: (613) 277-3178,; Inuit Circumpolar
Council (Canada): Corinne Gray, (613) 563-2642; KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical
Justice: Ed Bianchi, Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator, (613) 235-9956;
Native Women's Association of Canada: Celeste McKay, cell: (613) 858-7070;
Quebec Native Women: Ellen Gabriel, (450) 632-0088 ext. 228

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