Two years after signing the Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples, the Harper government continues to ignore major problems facing First Nations, Metic and Inuit communities.
Ottawa (13 Sept. 2012) - On September 13, 2007, 144 states at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.Canada was one of four countries which voted against the declaration. The others included Australia, New Zealand and the United States; 11 countries abstained (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine).
Despite that, in April 2008, a majority of opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) went ahead and endorsed the Declaration calling on parliament and the government of Canada to “fully implement the standards contained therein.”
Three years later, Harper finally reversed his decision and signed the Declaration.
The UN declaration affirms minimum human rights standards 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. The declaration also explicitly requires that all provisions are to be balanced with other rights protections and interpreted in accordance with principles of justice, democracy, non-discrimination, good governance and respect for the human rights of all.
In adopting the Declaration in 2010, the Harper government said, "the Canadian government's vision is a future in which Aboriginal families and communities are healthy, safe, self-sufficient and prosperous within a Canada where people make their own decisions, manage their own affairs and make strong contributions to the country as a whole."
Yet that same year, a UN publication entitled, State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, reported the following:
- Life expectancy at birth for the registered Indian population was estimated at 68.9 years for males and 76.6 years for females, reflecting differences of 8.1 years and 5.5 years respectively;
- About 70 per cent of First Nations students on reserve will never complete high school;
- Aboriginals make up about 19 per cent of federal prisoners, while they are 4.4 per cent of the total population; and
- The rate of indigenous in Canadian prisons climbed 22 per cent between 1996 and 2004, while the general prison population dropped 12 per cent.
Since then, Canadians have continued to see the practices of exclusion, abuse and alienation carried by the Harper government toward First Nation communities. Education, health, water conditions continue to decline. When Harper sent in his third-party manager to handle the state of emergency in Attawapiskat, Canadians saw first hand how much things have yet to improve.
"We urge the Harper government to rethink both its policy direction and approach to working with First Nation communities across our country, " said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees Union (NUPGE). "The Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples was supposed to mark the beginning of a different era. Unfortunately, the government continues to ignore the reality of our own indigenous people, and worse acts against their best interests."
"We need the Prime Minister to start using the guiding principles of justice, democracy, non-discrimination, good governance and respect for the human rights of all."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE