Friday, September 14, 2007

UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights

[I found this in my inbox this morning. I think many people in Canada will agree with this message. The Government of Canada behaved immorally, and did not represent me, when they voted "no" to the UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights.]

As Chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation I agree that not voting for and not signing the UN Declaration of Indigenous Rights has embarrassed Canada internationally. But the reality is that in Canada violations of human rights have been happening under successive governments despite the fact that Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1982, the Right to Property was taken out of the original draft of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Trudeau Government understood that including the Right to Property as a Charter Right would have significantly increased the onus on the courts to recognize the property rights of the original owners of the land, the indigenous people. A right to property in Canadian domestic law would therefore put in jeopardy the continued theft of the resources from the original owners.

Canada and the United States are two of the wealthiest countries in the world and it is no secret that the resource wealth was stolen from the indigenous people of North America with extreme prejudice. Canada and the United States have a combined land mass of over 7.5 million square miles. It is no wonder that the governments of both these countries would vote against the international justice of recognizing indigenous people as a people with inherent rights.

If the Liberal Party of Canada wants real justice and are not just playing party politics, the introduction in parliament of an amendment to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right to property would go a long way to finally recognize the interational obligation that Canada has to support in domestic law, article 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Until that is done, the reality is that the 3 million barrels of oil produced by Canada each and every day, is still stolen from indigenous people. More than 60 different metals and minerals mined in Canada produces wealth, but without any legal recognition of royalties or any payment of royalties for the original owners of the resources.

In Canada, the indigenous people are still at the 63rd level of the United Nations international living index while at the same time Canadians enjoy being the ninth richest country in the world with a Gross Domestic Product of over one trillion US dollars per year. We, as the indigenous people of these lands, are not surprised by the vote, just disappointed by the continued international reputation of Canada and the United States as being bastions of human rights.

- Chief Terrance Nelson

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