Thursday, September 13, 2007

UN adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

UN adopts Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

It passed! But the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia voted against it

Campaign groups say native tribes are under more pressure than ever
BBC News

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a non-binding declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples after 22 years of debate. The treaty sets down protections for the human rights of native peoples, and for their land and resources. It passed despite opposition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. They said it was incompatible with their own laws. There are estimated to be 370 million indigenous people in the world. They include the Innu tribe in Canada, the Bushmen of Botswana and Australia's Aborigines.

'Important symbol'
The General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with 143 countries voting in favour and 11 abstaining. Four nations - Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States - each with large indigenous populations, voted against. A leader of a group representing Canada's native communities criticised his government's decision to oppose the declaration. "We're very disappointed... It's about the human rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. It's an important symbol," said Phil Fontaine, leader of the Assembly of First Nations. The Canadian government said it supported the "spirit" of the declaration, but could not support it because it "contains provisions that are fundamentally incompatible with Canada's constitutional framework." "It also does not recognise Canada's need to balance indigenous rights to lands and resources with the rights of others," a joint statement from the Canadian ministries of Indian and Foreign Affairs said. Canada has 1.3 million indigenous peoples, among a total population of 32.7 million.

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