2nd Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Canada not signed on

Aboriginal Law Blog

September 14, 2009

Two years ago, on September 13, 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, after 143 Member States voted in favour of it. Notably, 11 countries abstained, and four: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States – voted against it.

The Declaration is a non-binding "principles" based document which emphasizes the rights of the world's estimated 370 million indigenous people and prohibits discrimination against them. It also promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo is quoted as stating that "September 13 is a landmark day for the world's Indigenous peoples, but a black mark on Canada's international reputation."

At the time of signing the Declaration, Ambassador John McNee of Canada is quoted as saying that Canada was disappointed to have to vote against the Declaration, but it had "significant concerns" about the language in the document, including that the provisions on lands, territories and resources "are overly broad, unclear and capable of a wide variety of interpretations" and "could put into question matters that have been settled by treaty."