Canada stands alone against Indigenous Rights

That seems to be the way the wind is blowing.  Originally only New Zealand, Canada, the US and Australia voted against the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (while 11 countries abstained).

New Zealand and Australia have now signed the declaration (which is not legally binding), and the Obama administration has promised to undertake a review of their opposition.

So, here we are. All alone. The only country in the world that stands resolutely against rights for indigenous people.

Of particular interest  are the following articles:

Article 8

1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:
(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources;
(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.

(Whoops, there goes the Indian Act).

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 28

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to redress, by means that can include restitution or, when this is not possible, just, fair and equitable compensation, for the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used, and which have been confiscated, taken, occupied, used or damaged without their free, prior and informed consent.

2. Unless otherwise freely agreed upon by the peoples concerned, compensation shall take the form of lands, territories and resources equal in quality, size and legal status or of monetary compensation or other appropriate redress.

With Vancouver’s ramshackle old bungalows currently hitting the market for a million bucks a pop while King George’s Royal Proclamation of 1763 renders the entire province of BC basically illegal, I suppose the government is worried about the cost of this particular article.  But why?  After all, the declaration is not legally binding.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “the Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general last month that it would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration “in a manner fully consistent with Canada’s constitution and laws.””

Would that be laws like the Indian Act, which sweeps indigenous people onto government-sanctioned rural ghettos and instructs them exactly how to run their own business? Or laws like the Canadian Constitution, which reaffirms the Royal Proclamation of 1763?  Hmmm… I think I see a problem.

Thanks to Radio New Zealand (via the Aboriginal News Group) for the tip-off.


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