[JURIST] Canadian UN ambassador John McNee [official profile] on Friday announced that the country has endorsed [press release] the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text], reversing the government’s initial opposition to the declaration. Though the government reiterated its concerns about several of the declaration’s provisions, it cited [statement] encouragement from community leaders and other countries’ experiences in reversing its position on the document. The Canadian government described the move as one intended to strengthen relationships with indigenous communities, saying:
The Declaration is an aspirational document which speaks to the individual and collective rights of Indigenous peoples, taking into account their specific cultural, social and economic circumstances. Although the Declaration is a non-legally binding document that does not reflect customary international law nor change Canadian laws, our endorsement gives us the opportunity to reiterate our commitment to continue working in partnership with Aboriginal peoples in creating a better Canada.
Shawn A-in-chut Atleo [official profile], National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations [official website], praised [press release] the endorsement, saying that the occasion marks “a new era of fairness and justice.”
The declaration was adopted by the UN [JURIST report] in 2007 after 143 member states voted to adopt the treaty, though Canada was among four-including Australia, New Zealand and the US-that declined to do so at the time. The four originally cited concerns that it conflicted with their countries’ own laws, among other contentions. New Zealand endorsed [AFP report] the declaration in April, as did [JURIST report] Australia in 2009. The declaration seeks to negate past wrongs to indigenous people worldwide by ensuring equal enjoyment of the laws in each member nation and by prohibiting state sanctioned racial discrimination, forced removal from native lands, and forced assimilation into mainstream national culture.