November 12, 2010

Canada signs UN declaration

Canada Endorses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesThe Government of Canada today formally endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws. Canada's Ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. John McNee, met with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Joseph Deiss, to advise him of Canada's official endorsement of the United Nations Declaration.

"We understand and respect the importance of this United Nations Declaration to Indigenous peoples in Canada and worldwide," said the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for M├ętis and Non-status Indians. "Canada has endorsed the Declaration to further reconcile and strengthen our relationship with Aboriginal peoples in Canada."

"Canada is committed to promoting and protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples," said the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs. "Canada's active involvement abroad, coupled with its productive partnership with Aboriginal Canadians, is having a real impact in advancing indigenous rights at home and abroad."

The United Nations Declaration describes the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples. It sets out a number of principles that should guide harmonious and cooperative relationships between Indigenous peoples and States, such as equality, partnership, good faith and mutual respect. Canada strongly supports these principles and believes that they are consistent with the Government's approach to working with Aboriginal peoples. While the Declaration is not legally binding, endorsing it as an important aspirational document is a significant step forward in strengthening relations with Aboriginal peoples.
Ottawa wins praise for endorsing UN indigenous-rights declaration

By John IbbitsonThe Harper government stepped up to the plate Friday, formally signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, ending Canada’s isolation as one of two countries that refused to endorse the text.

The non-binding declaration commits member states to protect the rights and resources of indigenous peoples within the state. The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand refused to sign when the accord was adopted in 2007, claiming that resource rights and other claims included in the text clashed with their constitutions.

Australia and New Zealand have since signed on. And the Conservative government signalled in the Throne Speech this year that the Prime Minister was prepared to end his government’s opposition. Word came Friday afternoon from United Nations headquarters that Canada had signed, with certain qualifications. The government decided it was better to endorse the declaration and explain its concerns, rather than reject the whole document.

The United States remains alone in refusing to endorse the declaration, though President Barack Obama’s administration has made improving relations with and living standards for Native Americans a priority.
Feds endorse UN native rights declaration

By Althia RajAboriginal groups praised the Conservative government's decision to finally back a United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous people Friday.

The federal government had long argued the 2007 declaration contained clauses about the rights to land, territories and resources were overly broad and could be widely interpreted leaving the feds open to legal action.

Friday, the Tories said they signed on to an “aspirational” document.
Comment:  Note the weasel words in Canada's statement:The Declaration is an aspirational document.

[T]he Declaration is a non-legally binding document that does not reflect customary international law nor change Canadian laws.

We are now confident that Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the Declaration in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and legal framework.
Some Facebook commenters took a positive or hopeful view of this signing:When countries and peoples begin living by these standards, over time they become internationally accepted. It will take more time, but we are going to get there, especially as support continues to grow.

Long let's see if they will respect it.

Great news! Now the USA needs to stop holding up progress and endorse it too. Now!

The thing to do here in the U.S. is keep citing the Declaration and using it.
While cynics like me took a negative view:Sounds like Canada expects this to have zero effect on Native rights.Although the cynical view is usually right, let's hope it's wrong this time.

I'm guessing Obama will sign the declaration eventually with similar weasel words. I expect he'll make the non-binding part more explicit. I wouldn't be surprised if he says something cowardly like, "The US 'supports' the declaration but can't sign it for legal reasons."

For more on the subject, see Obama Should Sign UN Declaration and UN Declaration = Flat-Earth Policy?

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