30 June 2006

AFN: Draft DRIP Moves Forward


Transmitted by CNW Group on : June 29, 2006 16:08
Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Moves Forward
Despite Canadian Government Interference

OTTAWA, June 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Indigenous peoples and human rights organizations in Canada are welcoming the historic decision by the United Nations Human Rights Council to back the adoption of the draft UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

However, these organizations also expressed their deep frustration and disappointment with the Canadian government's efforts to stall this much-needed and long overdue human rights instrument. Canada called the vote as a pre-emptive move against the Declaration's passage, but in the end Canada was one of only two countries to vote against the Declaration.

Instead, the Council voted to bring the proposed Declaration forward for possible adoption by the UN General Assembly later this year. The vote was 30 in favour and 2 against (with 12 abstentions and 3 absent).

"Canada's opposition to the Declaration has soured the first meeting of the Human Rights Council," says Beverly Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada. "The Council was created in the hope that states would set aside domestic considerations and work impartially to advance the human rights of all. It's a bitter disappointment that Canada would mar the very first session by openly pursuing a dubious domestic agenda."

The Canadian government was an active participant in the Working Group that drafted the current text and, in recent years, had a played a critical role in building state support for the principles of the draft Declaration. The current government has tried to explain its sudden opposition by claiming that some provisions of the Declaration are incompatible with Canadian law. It has not provided any substantiation of this claim. Canada had failed also in an earlier attempt to bring forward a counter-resolution to have the decision on the Declaration delayed so it could be re-opened for further negotiation. All of these moves damage Canada's international reputation as a leader in Indigenous and human rights.

Indigenous peoples' organizations that have participated in the Working Group point out that not only is the Declaration a non-binding, aspirational statement that would not override any domestic laws, it also contains specific assurances, introduced by Canada, that its provisions must be interpreted in a fair and balanced manner that respects basic principles of human rights, democratic society and good government.

"We are outraged that Canada would demonstrate such bad faith in opposing a text that it helped write," says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada "It is even more astounding that Canada would then try to persuade other states that another round of negotiations is needed. It was fortunate - though embarrassing for all Canadians - that Canada quickly found itself isolated on a Council that was prepared to move forward with a principled defence of Indigenous peoples' human rights."

Strong international support for the Declaration is an important step forward in countering the widespread racism and discrimination that threatens the survival and well-being of Indigenous peoples worldwide. The draft Declaration clearly affirms that Indigenous peoples must not be arbitrarily denied the right of self-determination, which is recognized in international law as a universal right of all peoples. The Declaration also affirms diverse rights regarding lands, territories and resources that are essential to the cultural identities of Indigenous peoples and the fulfillment of their basic human rights.

"This is an historic day for Indigenous peoples around the globe," said Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine. "We are grateful that the Council has recognized the importance and urgency of moving ahead with human rights protections for Indigenous peoples. It is very unfortunate that in trying to stand in the way of the Declaration, Canada has done so much harm to its credibility and influence on a Council that it worked so hard to create."

The Declaration has been under development for more than two decades. The current proposal, which emerged from an 11-year-long Working Group process, has been endorsed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People and by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It has also been supported by a wide range of states worldwide, including states such as Norway and Denmark which, like Canada, have a history of negotiation and treaty-making with Indigenous peoples.

Source: Native News North
Info (all lists)

Archived: Fri Jun 30, 2006 6:43 pm

29 June 2006

UN overrides Canada over native rights

UN overrides Canada over native rights

Associated Press
Published: Thursday, June 29, 2006

GENEVA -- The new UN Human Rights Council on Thursday overrode Canadian and Russian objections and passed a declaration to protect the rights of native peoples around the world, including an assertion that they have a possible right to restitution for land and resources taken from them.

By 30-2 vote, the body approved the declaration that said indigenous people should be free from discrimination and that they have a right "to consider themselves different and to be respected as such." A dozen countries abstained and three were absent.

A coalition of indigenous people who had been campaigning heavily in favour of passage had complained that Canada, a former supporter of the declaration, had switched sides after the Conservative party ousted the Liberals earlier this year.

They said Canada thus joined the United States, Australia and New Zealand -- all countries with significant native populations -- in opposing the declaration. The U.S., Australia and New Zealand, however, have no vote because they are not members of the 47-nation council, which began its first session last week.

The council replaced the widely discredited 53-country UN Human Rights Commission.

© Associated Press 2006


Archived: Thu Jun 29, 2006 7:57 pm

28 June 2006

UBCIC: Draft UN DRIP Request for support

Open Letter: Draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Request for full and ongoing Canadian government support

June 27, 2006

Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Right Honourable Prime Minister:

Re: Draft U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
Request for full and ongoing Canadian government support

We are writing to respectfully express our deep concern that your government has not yet indicated its clear support for the draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Many other countries are strengthening their commitment to Indigenous peoples' human rights and the latest text proposed by the Chair of the Working Group. However, the Government of Canada's previous prominent role and earlier support seems to be diminishing.

For over 20 years, international law experts, States and Indigenous peoples from all parts of the world have invested a great deal of time and effort at the United Nations to discuss the urgent and essential human rights standards included in the Declaration. At this historic juncture, Canada should reinforce its longstanding human rights commitments.

The Declaration explicitly provides in a fair and balanced manner that the "human rights . of all shall be respected". All of its provisions "shall be interpreted in accordance with the principles of justice, democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good governance and good faith". These are the core principles and values of Canadian and international human rights law.

1. Significant positive momentum

During the past year, there has been significant positive momentum in favour of Indigenous peoples' human rights. In the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the General Assembly and the Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their "commitment to continue making progress in the advancement of the human rights of the world's indigenous peoples . and to present for adoption a final draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as soon as possible." In the Programme of Action for the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, the General Assembly and its Member States agreed that "adoption [of the Declaration] early in the Decade should be a priority for the Second Decade".

Further, on May 26, 2006, the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues highlighted that the U.N. Declaration is an "an instrument of great value to advance the rights and aspirations of the world's indigenous peoples." The Forum recommended by consensus "the adoption without any amendments of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples . by the General Assembly during its sixty-first session, in 2006."

Clearly, there is widespread and growing global support for the latest text of the U.N. Declaration to be adopted this year by the General Assembly.

With respect to Indigenous peoples' human rights, Canada has played in recent years a leadership role at the United Nations and other international fora. Therefore, we are concerned that your government may arrest this highly effective initiative and now assume a regressive approach.

2. Questionable government actions

In our considered view, the following actions are not in keeping with the "spirit of partnership and mutual respect" that is a principal objective of the Declaration. Rather, these actions appear to establish a disturbing pattern that serves to impede cooperation, social justice and the enjoyment of our most basic human rights:

1. Despite severe socio-economic disparities affecting Indigenous peoples, your government has decided not to honour the Kelowna Accord that was agreed to by all First Ministers and national Indigenous leaders in November 2005. This unilateral action undermines the federal principle in Canada. It is also inconsistent with Canada's commitments under the U.N. Millennium Declaration, Inter-American Democratic Charter and other international instruments to respect human rights and combat poverty. On May 17, 2006, the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed its concern that "poverty rates [in Canada] remain very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups such as Aboriginal peoples".

2. In regard to climate change, your government has sought to scuttle the Kyoto Accord and prevent the global adoption of "stringent targets" to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. As indicated in the December 2004 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people: "The effects of global warming and environmental pollution are particularly pertinent to the life chances of Aboriginal people in Canada's North, a human rights issue that requires urgent attention".

3. In seeking election to the Human Rights Council, Canada's "Commitments and Pledges" (April 10, 2006) provide that "Canada commits to actively pursue the implementation of human rights domestically, including with respect to racism, indigenous people." By omitting any commitment to the human rights of Indigenous "peoples", Canada fell far short of its existing international obligations, as well as the rule of law enshrined in Canada's Constitution.

4. Canada's "Commitments and Pledges" do not contain any support for the adoption by the General Assembly of the latest text of the Declaration. This omission has potentially far-reaching adverse consequences, especially since many States are often influenced by Canada's human rights positions. In contrast, States such as Finland, France, Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil have actively pledged their support for adoption of the Declaration.

5. On May 17, 2006, Canada made a Statement at the Permanent Forum, opting not to indicate any positive support for the adoption by the General Assembly of the latest text of the Declaration. Yet this topic was a key human rights matter that was extensively discussed during the Forum. In addition to the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, countries such as the Philippines, Norway and Ecuador reiterated their unequivocal support for adoption of the Declaration.

6. During the past two months, substantive discussions and meetings with federal officials on matters relating to the Declaration have significantly diminished. These experienced officials are no longer in a position to engage in meaningful discourse or cooperation. This situation stands in sharp contrast to the mutually respectful method of collaboration that has been established with the Canadian delegation for the past two years. Through such dialogue, "harmonious and cooperative relations" that are emphasized in the Declaration were significantly enhanced. Any concerns that arose were carefully discussed and resolved together in a timely and exemplary manner.

7. In late February and early March 2006, Indigenous Chiefs and leaders wrote to you and your Ministers urging that Canada maintain its leadership role in this critical period relating to the Declaration. Meetings with your Ministers were also requested. No substantive response was ever received. Our democratic participation and input were in effect terminated.

We are aware that United States, Australia and New Zealand are aggressively lobbying Canada and other countries to oppose the adoption of the Declaration. Each of these States has been the subject of "early warning and urgent action" procedures by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in respect to their appalling treatment of Indigenous peoples. Each of these countries has played an obstructionist role in the standard-setting process, offering extreme, discriminatory, unsubstantiated and erroneous positions that have noticeably isolated them from many other States and Indigenous peoples. Rather than promote respect for Indigenous peoples' human rights, these three States are exacerbating our insecurity worldwide.

Hopefully, Canada will instead align itself with countries who are taking a respectful and principled stand on the human rights of Indigenous peoples. To do otherwise would cause extreme prejudice to over 370 million Indigenous people globally. The rampant human rights violations faced by Indigenous peoples would unjustly continue with virtual impunity.

3. Need for a bi-partisan, principled approach

Clearly, the promotion and respect for our human rights should remain a bi-partisan matter in Canada. In relation to our rights, Canada must uphold the honour of the Crown. In addition, all members of the Human Rights Council, including Canada, have an explicit duty to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights". It is a central responsibility and mandate of the Council to "promot[e] universal respect for the protection of all human rights . for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner".

We have heard that your government may qualify its support for the Declaration, by adding a list of understandings or concerns. Such an approach would be inappropriate and undermine the aspirational objectives of the Declaration. It would send contradictory messages to the international community. For Canada - an elected member of the Human Rights Council - to distance itself in this way from the Declaration would be to devalue its essential worth. Especially in its inaugural session, the Human Rights Council must uphold the highest human rights standards. It is only in this way that reform of the United Nations system can truly succeed and promote the dignity and rights of all peoples.

For all of the above reasons, we urge that your government actively encourage the adoption without amendment or qualification of the Chair's proposed text of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Chief Stewart Phillip
Chief Robert Shintah
Chief Mike Retasket

The UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Archived: Wed Jun 28, 2006 3:45 pm

20 June 2006

Canada opposes UN

Canada opposes UN aboriginal treaty

Last Updated Tue, 20 Jun 2006 11:28:01 EDT
CBC News

Canada is threatening to scuttle a United Nations declaration that would enshrine the rights of aboriginal people worldwide.

The United Nation's Human Rights Council in Geneva is expected to hold a vote on the treaty before the end of the month, but the Conservative government is one of several that feels the language is too all-encompassing.

Other nations opposing the declaration also have significant aboriginal populations - for example, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

"It contains provisions that are inconsistent with the Canadian Charter," said Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jim Prentice said of the deal. "It contains provisions that are inconsistent with the Constitution Act of 1982. It's quite inconsistent with land-claims policies under which Canada negotiates claims."

Prentice said the document would hinder land-claims talks with some aboriginal bands on handing over rights to exploit resources. He said Canada would vote against the document if it remained unchanged.

The Assembly of First Nations and Amnesty International were quick to criticize the government for delaying a document they said has already taken 20 years to craft.

"We feel that there's been sufficient discussion, and let's get on with the declaration and let's have the international community acknowledge the rights of the indigenous peoples," said Agnes Toulouse, Ontario Regional Chief.

The declaration is not legally binding, but rather, would be a symbolic gesture that shows countries support the sovereign rights of aboriginal people.

In a joint statement last month, the United States, Australia and New Zealand rejected the assertion that aboriginal people have the right to "self-determination," saying it was inconsistent with international law.


Archived: Tue Jun 20, 2006 9:29 pm

Canada said stalling declaration

Canada said stalling aboriginal rights declaration

Jun. 19, 2006

MONTREAL -- Canada has teamed with the United States and Australia to stop the United Nations from passing a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, says Amnesty International.

The human rights group, along with opposition parties, accused the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday of stalling the declaration along with these other nations.

It's been twenty years that the international community has been working on a declaration on aboriginal rights," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.

"It's difficult to imagine an important issue of human rights that the governments of the world have taken more time to resolve," Neve said Monday. "The problem of the human rights of indigenous peoples is urgent," said Angus Toulouse, president of the Assembly of First Nations.

"It's not necessary for the rights of these people to come in second place in order to please the United States, New Zealand and Australia." Last month, representatives of those three countries sent out a joint statement calling the declaration "profoundly imperfect."

The UN declaration would guarantee "auto-determination" for indigenous peoples, giving them the right to reclaim traditional territory and refuse military activity upon traditional lands.

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said the declaration contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, when it comes to aboriginal land claims, as well federal laws on national defence.

"The text is clearly in need of work," Prentice said.

But "we support the adoption of a declaration on the rights of aboriginal peoples and we're working on that."

The UN's new council on human rights will consider the declaration at a meeting that began Monday and will last through to June 30.

First Nations and Amnesty International hope the council adopts the declaration. If they do, the text could be put to the general assembly of the United Nations at their next meeting in September.

If Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand succeed in convincing the council not to adopt the law this time around, First Nations groups said they fear it will never happen.

At the beginning of the month, a House of Commons committee adopted a Bloc Quebecois motion demanding Ottawa support the declaration.

On Monday, Liberal MP Anita Neville chided the Conservatives for abandoning the leadership shown by the Liberals, who she said supported the motion.

Prentice responded by saying that "no Canadian government ever supported" the declaration.


Archived: Tue Jun 20, 2006 8:31 pm

16 June 2006

Six Nations Land: A View

Six Nations Land: A View From Below And To The Left

May 14, 2006
Stewart Steinhauer

First the facts: Canada is a settler state located in the northern portion of Turtle Island, formed out of two European colonies established here in the seventeenth century, one by Great Britain and one by France. These colonies were established on the basis of the Doctrine Of Discovery, itself an outgrowth of the European decision to de-construct the original Peoples of Turtle Island as both individual human beings, and as collections of human beings living together in rule of law type societies, and to re-construct these erased people and Peoples as a monolithic dependent population known henceforth as "Indians," "Natives," and "Aborigines," in need of civilizing.

Modern Canadians will say: "What do the actions of my ancestors in the seventeenth century have to do with me today?"

If modern indigenous people and Peoples weren't living trapped inside nations based on the Doctrine of Discovery, a legal doctrine now routinely overturned wherever it comes to trial in the international arena, living tortured lives as "Indians", "Natives", and "Aborigines", while modern Canadians, and modern euro-ancestry citizens of every other nation on Turtle Island and in other places around the globe, for instance Australia and New Zealand, enjoy the highest standard of living in the world, along, of course, with Western Europe, itself, on wealth produced specifically from the riches of the lands that they occupy by force of arms, not law, then one could logically say: "Why, nothing at all."

This brings us to the Haldimand Tract in southern Ontario, running from the Grand River's mouth on the northern shore of Lake Erie in a twelve mile wide swath up the Grand River to its headwater basin. In current mainstream discourse, the Six Nations land dispute is framed in the context of "Indian land claims." Reports mention up to 29 separate claims being made by Six Nations against the Crown's assertion of title. The Federal Government of Canada and the Provincial Government of Ontario are establishing a panel to settle these "Indian land claims."

The reality obscured by three unrelenting centuries of the European obsession with the manufacture of "Indians" is that, at least in law, it is the federal and provincial governments of Canada who are trying to make a claim to land, a claim based on the Doctrine of Discovery. The same objection raised at the Henco development site by Six Nations people can be legally raised, by various indigenous Peoples, throughout the entire territory currently called Canada. Instead of a panel whose every chair is occupied by a federal or provincial representative, either pale-faced or brown, seeking resolution to "Indian land claims", there should be a panel of non-European, non-Canadian adjudicators seeking resolution to "Canadian land claims".

For instance, a panel made up of well-respected international figures like Rigoberta Menchu from Guatemala, Arundahti Roy from India, Linda Smith from New Zealand, and so on across Africa and Asia, would be able to listen to Canada's claims with an open mind and a willing heart. It's not a question of whether the indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island want to share the land with settler populations from around the globe. If that were the case, then there would be no settler nations present on Turtle Island, just as there are no settler nations present in China. The seventeenth century European decision to manufacture "Indians" was based on the European observations of the sixteenth century, specifically that the people and Peoples of Turtle Island, while fierce in protection of their way of life, were committed to rule of law societies rather than rule of force societies, widely held sharing as a core value, and particularly eschewed murder as a dispute resolution mechanism.

At Six Nations we see the outline of this older form of society still intact in spite of three century's worth of investment by first European, now Canadian interests into the complete elimination of this distinct society. Twice, European colonial forces attempted a total eradication of Six Nations Peoples, at one point reducing the Six Nations Confederacy population to 1% of its former count. To the Western world's surprise, a delegation from Kanawake arrived at the doorsteps of the newly formed League of Nations, in 1924, asking for admittance to the organization modeled on the Six Nations Confederacy. Canada's response was to send an armed force of RCMP to Kanawake to arrest the Longhouse leaders, impose an Indian Act-recognized Chief and Council system, and amend the Indian act to make it illegal for Indian Bands to hire Canadian lawyers to defend their interest in Canadian or other courts.

Astonishingly, in 2006, the Six Nations Confederacy still exists. The people have their language, their constitution, in English called the Great Law of Peace, their original peaceful co-existence agreement with Europeans, the Two Row Wampum Belt agreement, an understanding of their territorial boundaries, and of their way of life based in a Clan Mother system that recognizes women as the title-holders of the land, protecting it for the "faces to come" who are the true owners. The Six Nations Confederacy call themselves the Eastern Door People. They are strategically located on the entrance to the northern portion of Turtle Island. Passing through their territory one can travel to the geographical center of Turtle Island by water. Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Boston, and New York are all located on Six Nations Confederacy lands.

The Six Nations Confederacy was part way through a unification process using the Great Law of Peace, which by the way, is not only the basis of first the League of Nations and now the United Nations, but also of modern democracy. The colonial experience is just a hiccup in this unification process. It's possible that, in spite of several hundred years of genocide, the Six Nations may wish to extend an invitation to Canada to join in unity under the Great Law of Peace. Canada could become a nation in law, could even possibly become a nation of peace. Modern Canadians could possibly enter into a new relationship with the original human inhabitants of the northern portion of Turtle Island, a relationship that the original Peoples have been patiently waiting for, for hundreds of years.

Lastly, the facts: The Six Nations Confederacy cannot be eradicated by any means. The offer to join them under the Great Law of Peace will probably remain on the table. Canadians can accept the offer now, or continue with their attempted eradication for another unknown amount of time. As a modern Canadian, what would you like to choose?


Archived: Fri Jun 16, 2006 12:34 am