Now joining New Zealand and Australia, Canada becomes the third of the four settler nations to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with the U.S. continuing to hold out. Canada, the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, were the only four states to oppose the Declaration, one that Canada had previously worked on securing. New Zealand backed the UN Declaration in mid-April 2010, while Australia also did an about face and endorsed the Declaration in April of 2009 (see the response by Michael Dodson, rapporteur for the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues). Australia also issued a formal apology to members of the stolen generation.
From Canada's Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade:
(November 12, 2010) The 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 Métis 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.
“Canada’s Aboriginal leadership has spoken with passion on the importance of endorsing the Declaration. Today’s announcement represents another important milestone on the road to respect and cooperation,” added Minister Duncan.
Canada’s endorsement builds upon numerous other government initiatives for Aboriginal peoples on education, economic development, housing, child and family services, access to safe drinking water, and the extension of human rights protection and matrimonial real property protection to First Nations on reserve.
From SHAWN A-IN-CHUT ATLEO - NATIONAL CHIEF OF THE ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS - PRESS RELEASE:
November 12, 2010
National Chief Welcomes Canada’s Endorsement of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Respect, Partnership and Reconciliation will Guide Work to Improve the situation of First Nation Peoples and Build a Stronger Canada
OTTAWA, ON: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn A‐in‐chut Atleo stated that Canada’s endorsement of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is a positive development that sets the stage for a new approach to building stronger First Nations and a stronger Canada.
“Today marks an important shift in our relationship and now the real work begins,” National Chief Atleo said. “Now is our time to work together towards a new era of fairness and justice for First Nations and a stronger Canada for all Canadians, guided by the Declaration’s core principles of respect, partnership and reconciliation. First Nations have worked long and hard to set out constructive and effective approaches and to abandon the colonial relationship embodied in the Indian Act that has held back our people and this country. We are ready to move now – today – on our key priorities including education.”
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada committed to endorsing the UN Declaration in the 2010 Speech from the Throne. The UNDRIP has the distinction of being the only Declaration within the United Nations which was drafted with the rights‐holders, themselves, the Indigenous Peoples of the world.
“Today is important, not as the culmination of our efforts, but as the beginning of a new approach and a new agenda,” the National Chief stated. “Canada’s apology for the residential schools in 2008 was a critical moment to acknowledge the pain of the past. Endorsing the Declaration is the opportunity to look forward and re‐set the relationship between First Nations and the Crown so it is consistent with the Treaties and other agreements with First Nations upon which this country was founded. In endorsing the UN Declaration, Canada is committing to work with us as a true partner to achieve reconciliation as instructed by the courts in Canada.
I congratulate Canada in taking another step towards the promotion and protection of human and fundamental freedoms for all.”
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations in Canada.