Statement by Canada's New Government regarding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples



    OTTAWA, Sept. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - The Honourable Chuck Strahl, Minister of
Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and
Non-Status Indians, and the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Foreign
Affairs, issued the following statement today regarding the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:

    The General Assembly will vote tomorrow on whether or not to adopt the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
    Canada will vote against adoption of the current text because it is
fundamentally flawed and lacks clear, practical guidance for implementation,
and contains provisions that are fundamentally incompatible with Canada's
constitutional framework. It also does not recognize Canada's need to balance
indigenous rights to lands and resources with the rights of others.
    Since taking office in 2006, Canada's New Government has acted on many
fronts to improve quality of life and promote a prosperous future for all
Aboriginal peoples. This agenda is practical, focuses on real results, and has
led to tangible progress in a range of areas including land claims, education,
housing, child and family services, safe drinking water and the extension of
human rights protection to First Nations on reserve. We are also pushing to
have Section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act repealed. This would ensure
the protection of fundamental human rights for all Aboriginal people,
including Aboriginal women who are often the most vulnerable.
    Canada supports the spirit and intent of a United Nations Declaration on
the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But further negotiations are necessary in
order to achieve a text worthy of Canadian support that will truly address the
interests of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada and around the
world.
    We have not stood alone during this process. The U.S., Australia and New
Zealand have all voiced concerns with the text as it now stands.
    Canada's position has remained consistent and principled. We have stated
publicly that we have significant concerns with the wording of provisions of
the Declaration such as those on: lands, territories and resources; free,
prior and informed consent when used as a veto; self-government without
recognition of the importance of negotiations; intellectual property; military
issues; and the need to achieve an appropriate balance between the rights and
obligations of indigenous peoples, member States and third parties.
    For example, in Article 26, the document states: "Indigenous peoples have
the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have
traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired." This could be
used by Aboriginal groups to challenge and re-open historic and present day
treaties and to support claims that have already been dealt with.
    Similarly, some of the provisions dealing with the concept of free, prior
and informed consent are too restrictive. Provisions such as Article 19 imply
that the State cannot act without the consent of indigenous peoples even when
such actions are matters of general policy affecting both indigenous and
non-indigenous peoples.
    Despite Canada joining efforts with like-minded States that have a large
indigenous population, our concerns with the current text were not addressed.
    Canada will continue to be active internationally in the field of
indigenous rights, and will continue with our practical and meaningful agenda
on priorities here at home.




For further information:

For further information: Philippe Mailhot, Press Secretary, Office of
the Honourable Chuck Strahl, (819) 997-0002; Foreign Affairs Media Relations
Office, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, (613) 995-1874


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