(Photo: A pow wow dancer in front of the Peace Tower during a recent rally in Ottawa. APTN)
APTN National News
OTTAWA–The Conservative government’s continued attack against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the international stage reflects their reluctance to follow through on a promise to partially endorse the document at home, says the NDP’s Aboriginal affairs critic.
The government is facing outrage from Aboriginal leaders this week after Canadian delegates resisted the inclusion of a reference to the declaration during UN talks to craft an international agreement on biodiversity.
The talks are part of a UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan.
Canada was also recently criticized by the UN official tasked with monitoring Indigenous rights around the world for its position on the declaration.
During a Senate hearing in September, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner Willie Littlechild criticized Canada for opposing the equation of collective indigenous rights with human rights during talks at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
NDP MP Jean Crowder, the party’s Aboriginal affairs critic, says the government’s recent decision to switch positions and oppose the declaration during the UN conference in Japan signals it may not be ready to follow through on their Speech from the Throne promise.
Crowder said Canadian representatives had initially supported references to the declaration this past May.
“Now in October, Canada is saying they don’t recognize the UN declaration and it should be removed. What has changed?” said Crowder. “Does this mean the prime minister and his Conservative government have broken another promise and will not officially recognize the UN declaration?”
Crowder raised the issue in question period Thursday, but Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan repeated previous talking points that the government would “take steps” to endorse the “aspirational” document.
Crowder said the government’s actions on the international stage reveal just how difficult it has been for the Conservatives to figure out how to follow through with their promise to give a qualified endorsement to the declaration.
“They’ve been delaying their endorsement while they try and figure out how to endorse part of something,” said Crowder.
Canada was reportedly the only country to oppose the inclusion of a statement saying, “taking into account the significance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The move drew immediate condemnation from Aboriginal delegates at the conference.
“You cannot claim to be a champion of human rights on the one hand and at the same time oppose the most widely accepted international charter in relation to indigenous peoples,” said Armand MacKenzie, executive-director of the Innu Council of Nitassinan, in a statement.
“This obstructionist position is an enormous step backwards, is unacceptable and undermines all Indigenous peoples’ collective rights,” said Mohawk Ellen Gabriel, president of the Quebec Native Women Association.
The Brazilian delegation said Canada’s position threatened the negotiations, according to reports.
Canada initially voted against the declaration at the UN, along with the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand and Australia have since endorsed it, while the U.S. has said it is reconsidering opposing it.
James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on indigenous issues, said in a Sept. 15 report to the UN Human Rights Council that Canada had taken a “manifestly untenable position” by insisting the declaration did not reflect international law.
Canada was criticized by Littlechild last month for opposing the addition of an “s” to the word people in the phrase “human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.”
Former Indian affairs minister Chuck Strahl admitted that Canada’s opposition to the document had hurt its relationship with Aboriginal communities.