The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly on Sept. 13, 2007, in a historic vote by an overwhelming majority – 143 member states voted in favour, 11 abstained and four – Australia, Canada, New Zealandand the United States– voted against the declaration. Each of the four countries that opposed the declaration has large indigenous populations who own or have claims to huge land masses. NB. (Australiahas since signed the Declaration).
While it is not binding in law, the declaration represents the highest moral standard for the treatment of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous peoples. It is written in a human rights framework that will guide government policies for indigenous communities and promote the participation of indigenous peoples in the political processes and decisions that affect them.
The UN Declaration lays out the minimum human rights necessary for the “survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.” These include the right of self-determination, protections from discrimination and genocide, and recognition of rights to lands, territories and resources that are essential to the identity, health and livelihood of indigenous peoples.
Since then, Australiahas reversed its decision and has signed on to the covenant. The federal government, however, not only steadfastedly refuses to sign it, but is actively working against its implementation. All of this is having a damaging effect on Canada’s international Human Rights l reputation.