Saturday, June 9, 2007

Canada's shameful day at the UN

Canada's morally dubious accomplishment this week was to withdraw its support for the United Nations Draft Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

Largely prompted by Australia's right-wing, GOP-esque government, which opposes the declaration along with the United States, Canada did a flip-flop and withdrew its previous strong support for the declaration. This is despite two decades of negotiation that went into developing the document, the urging of organizations like Amnesty International and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) to support it, and Canada's previous active role in encouraging other countries to sign on.

The irony is that Canada's move to oppose the declaration comes just as First Nations people are organizing one of the largest national days of action (June 29, 2007) in recent history to draw attention to the continued injustices and poverty that face aboriginal people. That a nation of people within Canada continue to be faced with third world conditions in many of their own communities at a time of unprecedented economic prosperity should give us pause for thought.

From the
AFN's information site:

The NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION is an opportunity for First Nations and Canadians to stand together in a spirit of unity to support a better life for all First Nations peoples. Let us stand together to put an end to First Nations poverty as the greatest social injustice in Canada. Together, we can demonstrate that the relationship between First Nations and Canadians is based on principles of RESPECT, DIGNITY and FAIRNESS.

Our federal government should be condemned for the shameful way in which they've moved backward on social and economic development for First Nations: their opposition to the UN Declaration; the cancellation of the Kelowna Accord; the absence of any action on life-threatening drinking water issues; and no move on the recommendations of the
Report of the Ministerial Representative: Matrimonial Real Property Issues on Reserves.

Regardless of the opinions of the ministers that form the present government, every day of their inaction on First Nations economic development represents a wasted opportunity.

I look forward to June 29, when Canadians and First Nations people will join hand in hand to, first, rightfully condemn our federal government for their record to date and, second, make clear that positive change can and must begin now.

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