The Grand Council of the Crees

Presentation by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Presentation by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Posted: 2006-05-22

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Fifth Session
United Nations, New York
15-26 May 2006
Agenda item 4(b): Ongoing priorities and themes: Human Rights
May 22, 2006


Associated Documents:

The Draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Millennium Development Goals: Importance of a Human Rights-Based Approach


Oral Presentation by Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff,
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)


Thank you, Madame Chair, and distinguished participants of the Permanent Forum.

My name is Ashley Iserhoff. I am the Deputy Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) from James Bay, Quebec, Canada. We send warm greetings from our people and, in particular, to those Indigenous peoples who are hosting us on their traditional territory. We appreciate the historic importance of the work before us.


In relation to Agenda Item 4(b), we wish to briefly focus today on the draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Millennium Development Goals. As highlighted in our written submission to this Forum, our presentation is a collective statement on behalf of numerous Indigenous peoples and organizations globally.


In view of the far-reaching importance of the draft U.N. Declaration, our presentation will necessarily be supplemented by regional statements by other Indigenous representatives. This is especially essential since the Declaration highlights in Article 41 that the Permanent Forum and other U.N. bodies "shall promote respect for and full application of the provisions of this Declaration".


We strongly urge this Forum and all States to support the latest revised text that has been proposed by the Chair, Sr. Luis-Enrique Chavez, of the intersessional Working Group (WGDD). This text represents far more than the views of the Chair. Consensus has been achieved on a significant portion of the text. The text reflects 11 years of intensive discussions on the draft U.N. Declaration in the WGDD with State and Indigenous representatives. This was preceded by 9 years of debate in the U.N. Working Group on Indigenous Populations.


Madame Chair, in order to collectively advance the human rights of Indigenous peoples, we respectfully submit the following Recommendations:

Consistent with the theme of the Second International Decade "Partnership for action and dignity", we call upon the Permanent Forum to strongly recommend to the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Council:


i) to support, as a priority, the latest text of the draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its adoption by the General Assembly before the end of 2006; and

ii) to foster use of the U.N. Declaration as an integral part of a comprehensive and principled human rights framework for achieving the commitments in the U.N. Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals.


In the past two months, the current proposed text has received widespread support in different parts of the world from Indigenous peoples, as well as many States. If adopted, this latest text could well be a major step towards eliminating the widespread human rights violations suffered by over 370 million Indigenous people worldwide.


This aspirational instrument would serve to reinforce such universal principles as justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith. Also, a key aspect of the Declaration is to promote harmonious relations and mutual respect between Indigenous peoples and States. If fairly implemented, the Declaration would also serve to strengthen the international human rights system as a whole.


To date, we have heard dissent from only a few States – generally those countries who possess dismal human rights records relating to Indigenous peoples. For example, in regard to the United States, New Zealand and Australia, all of these States are either now or have been the subject of "early warning and urgent action" procedures by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We strongly urge the United Nations not to accommodate any discriminatory voices by delaying the adoption of the Declaration.


In regard to the Millennium Development Goals, we fully agree with the Permanent Forum that these Goals must be redefined in relation to Indigenous peoples. In particular, it is critical to fully respect Indigenous peoples' worldviews and priorities, as well as our right to self-determination; treaty rights; free, prior and informed consent; rights to lands, territories and resources; and other human rights in addressing any development-related issues.


In order to achieve the commitments in the U.N. Millennium Declaration and its Goals, we must integrate the Declaration in a just and fair manner, in all matters relevant to Indigenous peoples.


Meegwetch. Thank you.