OTTAWA, Nov. 12 /CNW/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo stated that Canada's endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a positive development that sets the stage for a new approach to building stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada.
"Today marks an important shift in our relationship and now the real work begins," National Chief Atleo said. "Now is our time to work together towards a new era of fairness and justice for First Nations and a stronger Canada for all Canadians, guided by the Declaration's core principles of respect, partnership and reconciliation. First Nations have worked long and hard to set out constructive and effective approaches and to abandon the colonial relationship embodied in the Indian Act that has held back our people and this country. We are ready to move now - today - on our key priorities including education."
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada committed to endorsing the UN Declaration in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. The UNDRIP has the distinction of being the only Declaration within the United Nations which was drafted with the rights-holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples of the world.
"Today is important, not as the culmination of our efforts, but as the beginning of a new approach and a new agenda," the National Chief stated. "Canada's apology for the residential schools in 2008 was a critical moment to acknowledge the pain of the past. Endorsing the Declaration is the opportunity to look forward and re-set the relationship between First Nations and the Crown so it is consistent with the Treaties and other agreements with First Nations upon which this country was founded. In endorsing the UN Declaration, Canada is committing to work with us as a true partner to achieve reconciliation as instructed by the courts in Canada.
I congratulate Canada in taking another step towards the promotion and protection of human and fundamental freedoms for all."
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations in Canada.
Canada endorses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
"The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples" proclaimed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "[I]t provides a momentous opportunity for States and indigenous peoples to ... promote reconciliation and ensure that the past is not repeated."
What does this mean for First Nations?
Canadian First Nation leaders have been directly involved in the development and negotiation of the UN Declaration (UNDRIP) for over twenty years. In 2007, the UNDRIP passed at the United Nations. Canada was one of only four countries along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States to vote in opposition to the UNDRIP.
First Nation leaders advocated strongly for the UNDRIP as a framework for advancing First Nations rights, dignity, survival, security and well-being. Assembly of First Nations' resolution No. 37/2007 called on the Government of Canada to endorse the UN Declaration without delay.
Now three years later, Canada, today, has endorsed the Declaration. While this in itself doesn't address our urgent needs, it does say that Canada is listening and that Canada is willing to work with us to achieve the standards set out in the UNDRIP. Furthermore, the UNDRIP will inform and guide the discussion regarding the meaning and implementation of treaty and aboriginal rights as guaranteed in the Constitution Act, 1982.
We do take exception to the statement that the UNDRIP does not reflect customary international law. However, with the endorsement, we can now move forward to address the full range of issues. From our preliminary assessment, Canada's statement is consistent with both Australia and New Zealand's statement of endorsement. The United States has yet to endorse the Declaration however President Obama has engaged Tribal governments in broad nation-to-nation talks.
We have much important work to do. With the UNDRIP as a guide, we can re-set our relationship with Canada aligned with our original relationship and rights enshrined in Treaty.
The AFN and National Chief will work immediately to seek commitment from Canada to move forward on priority issues as mandated by the Chiefs in Assembly including education. In addition, we will call on Canada to convene a First Nations-Crown Gathering as a key step forward in affirming our nation-to-nation relationships.
For more information please contact Karen Campbell at [email protected] or
613-241-6789, ext 263.
For further information: For further information:
Jenna Young, Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations 613-241-6789, ext 401, 613-314-8175 (mobile), or [email protected].
Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, Assembly of First Nations 613-241-6789, ext 382 or [email protected]