GENEVA, Feb. 5 /CNW Telbec/ - The image of Canada, as the great defender of human rights does not hold water when it's a matter of First Nations' rights. Two days ago, within the scope of Canada's Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council, the representative of the Canadian government was unable to defend and justify Canada's numerous acts of negligence towards the First Nations. Out of 47 countries who interrogated the representative of Canada, some 35 of them raised profound concerns for the fate of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples.
Numerous countries, including Austria, Mexico and Norway strongly criticized Canada, and enjoined it to reconsider its decision of not supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007. Canada was among the four countries to vote against the document. Later on, Canada remained silent when Denmark asked questions about a letter signed by one hundred lawyers from Canada who were questioning its reasons for not supporting the Declaration.
As a means of defense, the representative of Canada affirmed that the Declaration "does not provide for equilibrium between the rights of Aboriginals and Non-Aboriginals". "This position is ludicrous and hare-brained", replied the Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL), Ghislain Picard, emphasizing that Canada's laws, policies and programs, and more particularly the Department of Indian Affairs, have created and maintained since a very long time, numerous injustices towards the Aboriginals. " If the Declaration doesn't sit well with the Harper government, it's definitely because it respects our fundamental rights ", stated Chief Picard.
Violence suffered by Aboriginal Women
The adoption of the United Nations Declaration was not the sole concern put forward in regards to the First Nations. Numerous States also questioned Canada on the violence which the Aboriginal women are subjected to, while over 500 of them have gone missing or have been killed up until recently in Canada. On this matter, the representative of Canada had difficulty explaining that Aboriginal women in Canada are five times more at risk than the rest of the female population of being victims of domestic violence or to die from a violent death.
"The large number of questions asked by the other countries shows that, as far as the rights of Aboriginal Peoples are concerned, Canada does not project the image of a country that champions human rights", stated John Martin, the political adviser of the AFNQL, who was on site in Geneva. "We are hoping that this international pressure will bring Canada to change its ways of doing things and to recognize our rights", concluded Mr. Martin on behalf of the AFNQL.
The Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador is the regional organization regrouping the Chiefs of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador.
SOURCE Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador
For further information: For further information: Alain Garon, Communication Officer, AFNQL, (418) 842-5020, Cellular: (418) 956-5720