By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Ottawa didn’t think much of the high-profile UN World Conference on Indigenous Peoples’ outcome document and quietly posted an official statement outlining its displeasure in a back corner of its website.
The statement is posted under Foreign Affairs’ website for the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations. It’s not easy to find on the website as it’s not highlighted on the front page. It can be found first by clicking through a section on “Canadian Statements” and then the section subtitled “Statements on Human Rights.” The statement also did not make it onto Canada’s UN mission’s Twitter stream.
The first ever World Conference on Indigenous Peoples ran over two days and ended Tuesday.
Canada rejected the conference’s outcome document because it gave Indigenous people too much power over development on their territories. In particular, Canadian diplomats rejected the conference document’s position on “free prior and informed consent,” which is one of the key aspects of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Free, prior and informed consent…could be interpreted as providing a veto to Aboriginal groups and in that regard, cannot be reconciled with Canadian law, as it exists,” said Canada’s official statement. “Agreeing…would commit Canada to work to integrate (free, prior and informed consent) in its processes with respect to implementing legislative or administrative measures affecting Aboriginal peoples. This would run counter to Canada’s constitution, and if implemented, would risk fettering Parliamentary supremacy.”
The statement also reiterated Canada’s position that the UN declaration on Indigenous rights was merely an “aspiration document” that had no force in Canada.
“The 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,” said Canada’s official statement.
The AFN issued a statement blasting Canada for its position for watered down and limited Indigenous rights.
“It is deeply concerning…that Canada continues to embarrass itself and isolate itself on the world stage,” said interim AFN National Chief Ghislain Picard. “These actions are not consistent with our much-needed work towards reconciliation between First Nations and the Crown.”
Picard said during a press conference Wednesday First Nations also do not equate free prior and informed consent with a veto.
The AFN obtained the statement from the Canadian delegation at the conference and then posted on its website.
The AFN said it posted the statement for the historical record.
“The AFN takes the position that this is important information that is on the record and should be shared with First Nations and others,” said an AFN spokesperson.
A Foreign Affairs spokesperson directed APTN National News to the location of the posted statement.