Canada opposed UN declaration of rights for indigenous peoples

September 14, 2007

The 192-member nations of the U.N. General Assembly passed the declaration wth 143 votes in favor and 11 abstentions. United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand claimed it gave excessive property and legal powers.

The UN declaration of rights for indigenous peoples states that “indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”

That could potentially put in question most of the land ownership in countries, such as those that opposed the declaration, whose present population is largely descended from settlers who took over territory from previous inhabitants. A balancing clause inserted at a late stage in the text says nothing in it can authorize or encourage “any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity” of states. That was not good enough for the four objectors, notably Canada, where the issue has become a political football. Many of Canada’s 1 million aboriginal and Inuit people live in overcrowded, unsanitary housing and suffer high rates of unemployment, substance abuse and suicide (Worsnip 2007).

Worsnip, Patrick. 2007. “U.N. Assembly backs indigenous peoples’ rights.” Reuters. September 13.

read more | digg story

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