AFN National Chief Encouraged by Australian Government's Support for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Urges Canada to Endorse the Declaration: "It is Never Too Late to Do the Right Thing"

    OTTAWA, April 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine commended the Government of Australia's decision to support the
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The
announcement was made today by Australian Prime Minister Paul Rudd.
    "I congratulate and commend the Australian government, Prime Minister
Paul Rudd and the people of Australia for showing real leadership in endorsing
the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," National
Chief Fontaine said. "First Nations call on the Canadian government to follow
Australia's lead. Australia not only endorsed the Declaration but held a
National Close the Gap Day and set ambitious targets to close the gap in
health, housing, education and employment. Australia's actions show that it is
never too late to do the right thing and stand up for the human rights of
Indigenous peoples."
    Under the previous Howard government, Australia had opposed the UN
Declaration and was one of only four countries in the world to vote against it
at the United Nations. The other three were Canada, the United States and New
Zealand. There are indications that President Obama may reverse the United
States' position and sign-on to the Declaration.
    "Canada is increasingly marginalized and isolated on the international
stage because of its opposition to the UN Declaration," the National Chief
stated. "The fact that an overwhelming majority of UN member states have
endorsed the Declaration shows that the Government of Canada's stated fears
and objections about it are unfounded, untenable, and seemingly misleading.
The UN Declaration does not override any domestic laws but does set out the
human rights standards and best practices Canada should adhere to."
    The National Chief pointed to an Open Letter issued May 2, 2008, signed
by more than 100 legal scholars and experts. The Open Letter states: "It is
time for the government of Canada to cease publicizing its misleading claims
and, together with Indigenous peoples, actively implement this new human
rights instrument."
    The National Chief stated: "When the legal community and human rights
experts hold that Canada's objections are unfounded, it's time for the
government to rethink and reverse its position. The Declaration is an
expression of the fundamental principles that should guide the relationship
between governments and indigenous peoples. These are standards that can be
used to assess our progress in honouring the rights of the First Peoples.
Adopting the UN Declaration is the next logical step towards creating a
comprehensive plan that will affirm our rightful place in Canada, give life to
our rights and our Treaties, and give substance to the government's Apology
and promise of reconciliation made on June 11th of last year. This was a
promise not only to First Nations, but to all Canadians. It is time for Canada
to move forward and join the international community in endorsing the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Don Kelly, A/Communications Director, Assembly
of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext. 334, cell: (613) 292-2787,; Gina Cosentino, Government Relations and International Affairs,
National Chief's Office, (613) 314-2661,

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