The Grand Council of the Crees

House of Commons Aboriginal Affairs Committee Expresses support for the United Nations draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Posted: 2006-06-08

CNW Group Portfolio E-Mail

ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS

OTTAWA, June 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Indigenous peoples, faith-based and human rights organizations say the Harper government should follow the lead of a House of Commons committee which yesterday gave its endorsement to a key draft international instrument for the global protection of the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

On Wednesday, the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs approved a motion calling on the government to support international adoption of the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it comes before the new UN Human Rights Council later this month. After receiving approval by the Human Rights Council, the Declaration will be considered for adoption by the UN General Assembly. The motion was brought forward by the Bloc Quebecois and supported by Committee members from the Liberal and New Democratic parties. Conservative members on the Committee abstained.

In his appearance before the House of Commons Aboriginal Affairs Committee on Wednesday, National Chief Phil Fontaine of the Assembly of First Nations encouraged Canada to maintain its course in supporting the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"There is an urgent need, here in Canada and around the world, to protect and support the rights of Indigenous peoples," said Native Women's Association of Canada President, Beverly Jacobs. "It would be in the interest of both Aboriginal peoples and the government of Canada to support the Declaration in word and in deed, by both adopting the Declaration and recommending that other countries do the same."

This Declaration is of the utmost importance and urgency to Indigenous peoples all over the world and its provisions are explicitly guided by the core principles and values of Canadian and international human rights law. The draft Declaration is the product of over 18 years of focused discussion internationally between Indigenous peoples and states. Canada has played a key role in developing and building state support for the proposed text that will come before the Human Rights Council, but the current Harper government has not publicly stated that Canada's support for the Declaration will continue.

The draft Declaration is intended to address the widespread and deep-rooted discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples the world over by affirming that universal human rights standards and principles fully apply to Indigenous peoples and their specific circumstances.

Calls for support of the Declaration have come from numerous organizations, including the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Amnesty International Canada, Rights and Democracy, and the AFN. Many individuals attending the Committee meeting commended the opposition party members for taking a principled position on Indigenous peoples' human rights.

"The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is an essential human rights document," said Jean-Louis Roy, President, Rights & Democracy. "We urge the government to continue to support what has been called an instrument of great value to advance the rights and aspirations of the world's Indigenous peoples by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. This country has demonstrated remarkable leadership on international human rights issues in the past, and we call on the government to uphold that tradition for the benefit of Indigenous peoples around the world and here in
Canada."

For further information: Don Kelly, AFN Communications Director, (613)
241-6789, ext. 320; Ian McLeod, AFN Bilingual Communications Officer, (613)
241-6789, ext. 336; Louis Moubarak, Rights & Democracy, (514) 984-0622; Adiat
Junaid, KAIROS Communications Coordinator, (416) 463-5312, ext. 223