Statement by AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo marking the first Anniversary of Canada's endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

OTTAWA, Nov. 10, 2011 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated today that everyone has a clear role to play in ensuring respect for fundamental human rights, including international Indigenous human rights standards as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration). In a critical step long advocated for by First Nations and Indigenous leaders worldwide, one year ago, Canada endorsed the UN Declaration, formally reversing its previous opposition.

"The UN Declaration compels both states and Indigenous peoples to work together in mutual partnership and respect" said AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo. "This creates a new context and the opportunity and conditions for First Nations Peoples in this country to realize their full potential in all areas including education, health and the economy."

As stated by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Declaration "marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples reconciled with their painful histories and resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all." At the time of adoption, Ban Ki-Moon called on Governments and civil society "to urgently advance the work of integrating the rights of indigenous peoples into international human rights and development agendas, as well as policies and programs at all levels, so as to ensure that the vision behind Declaration becomes a reality'.

Following Canada's endorsement, the AFN and First Nations have shifted focus from advocating for the UN Declaration to the work required to implement and move forward First Nation rights. These efforts have included extensive education and information campaigns including an important webinar as well as advancing specific plans and actions.

The most significant example of such action is in the development of a Joint First Nations-Crown Action Plan. The Action Plan recognizes that "Canada and First Nations have an enduring historic relationship based on mutual respect, friendship and support." Further, it references the shift in the relationship exemplified by key steps including the Prime Minister's historic apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools, the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the launch of the Specific Claims Tribunal, and the endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Plan advances key steps to build on this relationship including in key areas of education, Treaties, claim resolution, economic development and policy reform to improve the long-term prosperity for First Nations people and all Canadians.

"Chiefs have clearly instructed us to make the UN Declaration a guide to our advocacy and efforts. The UN Declaration requirement for approaches of mutual respect and partnership and the clear standards inform everything we do," explained National Chief Atleo. "It is quite appropriate that the anniversary of Canada's endorsement of the UN Declaration falls so close to Remembrance Day. Our many veterans were and continue to be proud fighters for freedom and human rights. The achievement of the UN Declaration represents another critical step in this advocacy and effort for respect and human rights. Moving forward now, First Nations have increased opportunity to advance their rights and responsibilities and to achieve lasting change through justice and progress."

More information on the AFN's work as it relates to the UNDRIP can be found online at:

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter @AFN_Updates, @AFN_Comms and @NCAtleo.


For further information:

Jenna Young, AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401 or cell: 613-314-8157 or

Alain Garon, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382 or cell: 613-292-0857 or

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