United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples Elicits Strong Support

    OTTAWA, Jan. 29 /CNW Telbec/ - National Chief Phil Fontaine and the
Regional Chief of Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, announced their
ongoing commitment to secure the implementation of the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Canadian government.
    At a breakfast meeting on Parliament Hill today, Regional Chief Picard
addressed Members of Parliament as well as representatives from several
non-governmental agencies including Amnesty International, Rights and
Democracy, Kairos, Religious Society of Friends as well as other Aboriginal
organizations, who met to discuss the implementation of the Declaration in
    On September 13, 2007 the United Nations General Assembly, the highest
body of the UN system voted to adopt the Declaration after more than 20 years
of intensive negotiations between nation-states and Indigenous Peoples.
However, despite being a member of the Human Rights Council, a body created to
uphold the highest human rights standards, Canada voted against the
Declaration. With an overwhelming majority of 143 states in support of the
Declaration, Canada was one of only 4 countries to vote in opposition.
    "The negative vote by this government left a black mark on Canada's
reputation in the international arena when it comes to human rights," Chief
Picard noted. "To counter this I encourage all Members of Parliament to
support a motion in support of the Declaration in the House of Commons."
    "Despite Canada's negative vote," National Chief Fontaine noted, "the
Declaration can be seen as a turning point for a new relationship between the
Canadian government and First Nations." "In this respect", he added, "this
Declaration prescribes an internationally accepted standard for dealings
between States and their Indigenous peoples. At the end of the day, despite
its opposition to the Declaration on September 13th, Canada's actions and
relationship with the Aboriginal peoples in Canada will be judged in
accordance with the norms set out in the Declaration. I encourage all First
Nations in Canada to fully utilize the Declaration in conjunction with the
Canadian Constitution to pursue our inherent right to self-determination."
    As part of the effort to inform First Nations leadership and others about
the implementation of the Declaration, the Assembly of First Nations and the
First Nations Leadership Council of British Columbia are co-hosting a
symposium in North Vancouver on February 19-20, 2008 at the Chief Joe Mathias
Centre. This historic symposium will include presentations from recognized
experts in Canada and around the globe, including Grand Chief Edward John and
Alberta Regional Chief Wilton Littlechild who have dedicated many years of
their professional careers to working on and advocating for the Declaration.
The National Chief stated, "we owe our tremendous gratitude to Grand Chief
Ed John and Regional Chief Littlechild who have worked tirelessly to advocate
for First Nations in the drafting and passage of the Declaration."
    The National Chief reiterated the principles upon which the Declaration
is based: "The Declaration is an instrument rooted in the principles of
democracy, social justice, sharing, peaceful co-existence, mutual recognition,
and mutual respect. Its adoption by the UN was indeed historic. It is an
important international human rights instrument that is the product of hard
work and tireless dedicated commitment of Indigenous peoples from around the
world, human rights advocates and many supportive nation-states since it was
first drafted in 1985. It was truly an exercise in international cooperation."

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

For further information:

For further information: Joan McEwen, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789 ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, jmcewen@afn.ca; Nancy Pine,
Communications Advisor - Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789 ext 243,
cell (613) 298-6382, npine@afn.ca; Alain Garon, AFNQL Communications, (418)
842-5020, agaron@apnql-afnql.com

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