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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Today I'm Ashamed to be Canadian...

Okay, we Canucks are often smug - even Michael Moore loves us and why not - we have a such a fine place to live and what seem to be reasonable, socially-conscious citizens.

Today is a great day for the United Nations, but in one way it's the shits and I'm sad. The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted today by a vote of an overwhelming majority of the members UN General Assembly. Only four states - Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand -- opposed.

Here's a statement by the UN Chair on the Declaration.

Here's a media release that I'm proud of:

Media release
September 13, 2007

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by United Nations – despite Canadian government opposition

Canadian human rights and social justice groups join Indigenous peoples’ organizations in welcoming today’s decision by the United Nations General Assembly to adopt the long-awaited UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration has been under development for more than 20 years. Indigenous peoples’ organizations across Canada and around the world have long worked for its adoption.

“This is an historic moment,” says Mary Corkery, Executive Director of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. “Indigenous peoples in every region of the world face daily threats to their well-being and survival as peoples. The adoption of the Declaration sends a clear message that this has to change.”

The Declaration was adopted by a vote of 143 to four with 11 abstentions.

As it did when the Declaration was before the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006 and when it first came before the UN General Assembly in the fall of 2006, Canadian government representatives worked closely with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand to lead an unsuccessful effort to prevent adoption.

The Declaration has been supported by the three opposition parties in the Canadian Parliament. Documents obtained through an access to information request revealed that senior officials in the departments of Foreign Affairs and Indian Affairs had also called on the government to support the adoption of the Declaration.

Now that the Declaration is part of the larger body of international rights laws and standards, human rights groups and Indigenous peoples’ organizations are urging the federal government to return to a constructive dialogue with Indigenous peoples about its implementation.

“Canada will need to work hard to undo the harm done to its international reputation and influence by this unnecessary and unprincipled opposition to the Declaration,” says Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International. “Implementation of the Declaration within Canada is one of the best ways the government could once against demonstrate positive leadership in the international community.”
What a bummer! I wouldn't have expected anything else, though, considering those 4 nations are the only ones who have anything to lose by taking part in the resolution.

At least as a Canadian you only have to be ashamed once in a while. As an American, you live with the embarrassment of this administration doing something stupid every day.
Here's a stupid question: why would those 4 oppose it, exactly?
What is a declaration? It reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara, "I do declare."
Canada and my home the US have a skeleton in our closet with how we treat indigenous peoples. Perhaps we're afraid we'll really have to answer for what we've done to the native americans?
Nvisible - While a UN Declaration is not a binding agreement, like a Treaty or Convention, it has weight and is monitored and reported on. It is often used to pressure governments to do the right thing, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

These 4 countries all have issues with indigenous peoples around land, self-government, rights, services etc. In Canada, the current more conservative government doesn't support anything that makes is more difficult to avoid these issues. I assume it's similar for the others.

The US, of course, does its best to never sign anything that gives the world community any say over its affairs (such as the International Criminal Court, Landmine Treaty, Kyoto Accord etc.

Bohemian - sometimes I wonder if these things are any stronger than Scarlett's pronuoucement! Although she was one tough woman at some points in the movie...
Octavian is so right. Oh those skeletons. Would that declaration lead to any belated repayments or anything?
well, it's no surprise of which countries abstained isn't it?
anyhow..it ain't over till it's over..there are still many people in Canada supporting it..
Not to sound cynical, but since it's non-binding, really, why not play along? It just seems like they're asking for a headache. I mean, I think they should make every effort to do the right thing, of course. It just seems silly to take this stand. The American government, for example, doesn't seem to care that people disapprove of our position on torture. Here's a chance to look like we're making nice.

Man, we are at the mercy of morons.
` It's still better than being an American!
Hi Gary

I share your views.

I think collectively the four countries believe it is impractical to give back land that was taken from them and that such aspirations cannot share in what is now considered one nation, with a common benefit for all to celebrate in cultural diversity.

In Australia there have been a handful of agreements made between landowners of pastoral leases (government land granted under a lease) and their traditional Aboriginal owners where their native title was established. Interestingly enough the Landowners have found the Aborigines are not at all interested in changing any of the existing usage, what they are seeking is recognition of prior use and to that extent to be united and covenanted as co trustees for the land.

I think the critical issue is to recognise the rights of indiginous peoples stems from the fact existing human rights work aginst them.

In Australia many of the elders are in favour of “enforced dry areas” where alcohol is banned in recognition of their intolerance and ongoing health problems, the drunkenness and abuses that dominate their communities.

I presume the same situation applies in Canada. They would like to receive welfare allowances and unemployment benefits collectively distributed to the tribal leaders so that they will police the distribution of benefits themselves and help eliminate wastefulness of money spent on grog that have tended to dominate many communities.

Human rights prevent such a policy being implemented; the results are continued suffering with low life expectancy compared within the rest of the community.

Best wishes
According to Chimpy Mc Stagger, the U.S. is a "Compassionate Nation," and because he's a drunk just like my Daddy I believe him.
Gary I urge you to visit this link....wondering what your opinion on the whole situation is.
Thanks Kathie - where are you by the way? Can't find you in blogland.

I don't have a lot of knowledge of the current situation on Mohawk land, although I used to be pretty involved back in the 90s. Looks like one more situation where resolution is a long way off.

In BC we have one nation (Nisga'a)where self government and a modern treaty are working. There are lots of challenges for the people (poverty, addictions, loss of culture etc), but the system is working better.

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