Legal experts question Canada's arguments against the UN Declaration



    VANCOUVER, Feb. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, on the second day of the
symposium Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
a panel of international law experts will discuss Canada's stance on the
UN Declaration. "The Declaration and Canadian Law" panel begins at 9:15 a.m.
    The panel will critique the federal government's recent campaigns against
the UN Declaration, in Canada and abroad, including arguments that: the
Declaration does not address individual rights, threatens the rights of
non-native citizens, and is inconsistent with Canada's constitution. The panel
is also expected to comment on how Canada's actions regarding the Declaration
have impacted its international reputation and relationships.
    "We believe that Canadians are fair-minded people who care deeply about
human rights and that they do not want their government to pick and choose
when they will apply and respect human rights. Canada has made a commitment to
uphold the highest human rights standards in international and domestic law.
We remind Canadians that it is not too late for the federal government to
reverse its opposition to the UN Declaration, as Australia has promised to
do," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "We expect the legal panel will agree
with other legal advisors and international experts by reaffirming that the
UN Declaration is consistent with the rights guaranteed under section 35 of
Canada's constitution and all other domestic laws and international human
rights laws."
    Canada was actively involved in the drafting of the UN Declaration for
20 years, but in 2006, after the election of a new government, it suddenly
changed its position and began actively opposing the historic document. The
government's opposition included a media campaign against the Declaration,
lobbying other states to oppose the Declaration, and demanding amendments to
provisions that Canada had previously helped draft.
    "This week's symposium should be a signal to Canada that the adoption of
the UN Declaration was not an ending but a new beginning. This gathering is an
example of the work underway by indigenous peoples to ensure that the
UN Declaration is recognized and implemented as the minimum standards for the
survival, dignity and well being of the Indigenous peoples of the world", said
Grand Chief Edward John of the First Nations Summit and First Nations
Leadership Council. "Canada's opposition to the UN Declaration has proven to
be nothing less than an international disgrace. In fact, Amnesty International
recently commented that Canada's position as a global human rights champion
may be slipping due to its opposition to the human rights of Indigenous
peoples. It is time for Canada to recognize its error and prove its concern
for human rights by supporting the UN Declaration."
    The Declaration was adopted by the United Nations in September, 2007
despite opposition from Canada. Since then all opposition parties in Canada
have urged the federal government to change its position and support the
Declaration. The symposium Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples is a chance for First Nations leaders to learn how they can
move ahead on implementing the Declaration in Canada.
    The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples addresses both
individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to
education, health, employment, language, and others. It outlaws discrimination
against Indigenous peoples and promotes their full participation in all
matters that concern them. It also ensures their right to remain distinct and
to pursue their own visions of economic, social and cultural development.
    The two-day event is open to all media. The full agenda is available
online at: www.afn.ca . Today AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine and Grand Chief
Edward John of the First Nations Summit and First Nations Leadership Council
will be available to media at 12:30 p.m..




For further information:

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, AFN Communications, (613)
292-1877, kpugliese@afn.ca; Colin Braker, Communications Director, First
Nations Summit, cell: (604) 328-4094, CBraker@fns.bc.ca


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