Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine celebrates United Nations Day
OTTAWA, Oct. 24 – “Today is a day to celebrate the achievements of the United Nations since it came into being in 1945,” National Chief Phil Fontaine said. “The UN promotes respect for human rights, the protection of the environment, the fight against disease and the reduction of poverty. It has worked on many important initiatives including, most recently, the passage of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly after a vote of 144 to 4, with 11 abstentions, last month. Only Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand voted against it. The Declaration confirms rights in many areas, including education, health, and employment. It sets out minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and overall well-being of Indigenous peoples. According to a new report by Miloon Kothari, the UN Human Rights Council’s Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, some of the standards in the Declaration are not being met in Canada. Earlier this week, he released the preliminary findings of his report on affordable housing and human rights in Canada. Kothari discovered a violation of human rights in First Nations communities.
“What is required is for First Nations right to self-determination,” said Miloon Kothari. “If this is not done, it will lead to extinguishment of Aboriginal rights. The federal government must honour its fiduciary and treaty rights.”
“The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that First Nations have the right to self-determination, and the right to self-government, so the Declaration recognizes and affirms our rights to continue to develop our own institutions on our own terms,” National Chief Phil Fontaine said. “This process is integral to ensure that we achieve even greater successes in our efforts aimed at strengthening our nations and creating happy, healthy communities.”
Canada is also being criticized by the international community because it voted against the recognition of human rights of Indigenous peoples while being a member of the UN Human rights Council. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, was recently quoted by the Canadian Press as having expressed her “profound disappointment” with Canada’s position on the Declaration. She added that it was a surprising stand for a country that likes to see itself as a model of tolerance and respect for the rights of all.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
For further information: Joan McEwen, Director of Communications, (613) 241-6789, ext. 242, cell (613) 324-3329, firstname.lastname@example.org; Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor, Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789, ext 243, cell (613) 298-6382, email@example.com; Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications Officer, (613) 241-6789, ext. 336, cell (613) 327-6331, firstname.lastname@example.org