UN experts welcome Canada’s backing for indigenous rights declaration

18 April 2008 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts has lauded the endorsement given to a landmark declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples by the House of Commons in Canada – one of four States that voted against its adoption in the General Assembly last year.

In a statement issued today, the experts welcomed the motion adopted on 8 April by the House, regarding the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and relating to the call for Parliament and Government to fully implement its provisions.

“We are convinced that the standards and principles set forth in the Declaration will constitute a useful road-map for Canada's future laws and policies with regard to Aboriginal peoples, and will help improve their human rights situation,” the experts said.

“The Legislature's commitment to put the provisions of the UN Declaration into practice is a powerful sign for indigenous peoples in Canada and in other countries,” they added.

Adopted by the 192-member General Assembly last September, the Declaration outlines the rights of the world's estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlaws discrimination against them – a move that followed more than two decades of debate.

Canada, along with Australia, New Zealand and the United States, voted against the non-binding text, which sets out rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.

The action by Canada's House of Commons is among recent steps taken by States to give effect to the Declaration, the group stated, noting that Bolivia and Ecuador recently gave legal force to the Declaration by enacting legislation. Similar initiatives are being discussed in other countries.

The statement was signed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen; the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, Miloon Kothari; the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène; and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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