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Canada has to be vigilant on rights

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  • Don
    Canada has to be vigilant on rights Nov. 29, 2006. 01:00 AM ... Canada s rights stand under fire ... Nov. 27.
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 29, 2006
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      Canada has to be vigilant on rights
      Nov. 29, 2006. 01:00 AM


      Canada's rights stand under fire


      Nov. 27.

      Canada has a strong record of supporting and advancing aboriginal and treaty rights at home and abroad, and we take our commitments very seriously.

      That is why we have to be vigilant in terms of what we agree to. This is especially true in the case of the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, where the current text has never been supported by any Canadian government, whether Liberal or Conservative.

      Since the beginning, Canada has worked for a declaration that would promote and protect indigenous rights and freedoms. We have also worked for a declaration that would explicitly promote partnerships and harmonious relations between indigenous peoples and states; strike a balance between the rights of various parties; clarify responsibilities and commitments and provide practical guidance to states.

      The current text of the declaration does not meet these objectives. The wording leaves too much open to interpretation and does not provide effective guidance regarding how indigenous governments might work with other levels of government.

      The concept of free, prior and informed consent as used throughout the text is also a concern. Given these and other concerns, we proposed additional negotiations but our request was not supported by a majority of the Human Rights Council.

      Yesterday, committee of the General Assembly passed a proposal by the African countries for additional negotiations and we supported such a process. The proposal will be considered by the General Assembly before Christmas.

      As is evident, we are not the only ones with concerns. A number of countries have made statements in relation to the draft declaration - even those voting for adoption.

      However, some states supporting adoption either do not have sizeable indigenous populations, or are not concerned that the declaration would be referenced in domestic courts. Such is not the case with Canada as aboriginal groups in Canada would try to use the declaration in negotiations and in our courts.

      As one of the few nations in the world with constitutionally entrenched aboriginal rights, Canada takes the precise wording of the draft declaration very seriously. And that is why we are not able to support the current text.


      Jim Prentice,

      Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for M├ętis and Non-Status Indians,


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