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OTTAWA, Sept. 11 – September 13, 2009 marks the second anniversary of the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada was one of only four countries in the world to vote against the UN Declaration, and continues to oppose it.”September 13 is a landmark day for the world’s Indigenous peoples, but a black mark on Canada’s international reputation,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo stated. “The AFN is going to lead the effort to implement the United Nations Declaration through our work here at home and abroad. First Nations are going to put its principles into practice. The AFN is going to support First Nations in implementing our sacred treaties and our constitutionally protected title and rights using clear standards, such as those set out in the Declaration.”
The National Chief stated that, in addition to domestic work the AFN will work with its counterparts at the National Congress of American Indians, with the international community and at the United Nations itself to give life to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The AFN Quebec-Labrador region has been a leader in pressing Canada to support the UN Declaration. The AFN Regional Chief for Quebec-Labrador, Ghislain Picard, stated: “The majority of recommendations at Canada’s Universal Periodic Review on its human rights record were directly related to the treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This clearly indicates the need for Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The adoption of this UN Declaration would give the message that Canada is serious about bringing to an end its colonial and assimilations policies and practices. The Declaration could provide us with a basis from which a new relationship could be built on mutual recognition, mutual respect and lead us away from the current state of extreme poverty and dependency resulting from legislation and policies that are anchored in colonialism.”
Regional Chief Picard is also inviting First Nations and all Canadians to sign a petition asking the Canadian government to endorse the UN Declaration. The petition can be found online at www.apnql-afnql.com.
There is high support for the UN Declaration nationally and internationally. In 2008, 100 legal scholars and experts signed an Open Letter calling on the Government of Canada to “…cease publicizing its misleading claims and, together with Indigenous peoples, actively implement this new human rights instrument.” In April, the Government of Australia reversed its position and now supports the Declaration.
National Chief Atleo stated: “It is time to move forward with the Declaration in all that we do. It is a statement of the principles that should guide our relationship, and it is a way to measure our progress. It is time that we all embrace these principles and act on these principles.”
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