APTN National News
OTTAWA–Canada has taken an “untenable position” on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, says the United Nations official tasked with investigating Indigenous issues around the world.
James Anaya, the UN’s special rapporteur on Indigenous issues, said Canada had taken a “misplaced” and “overly broad” position on the declaration by insisting that it did not reflect international law.
“It is based on a failure to appreciate the relations between the declaration and widely accepted human rights principles that are undoubtedly parts of customary international law as well as treaty-based law,” said Anaya, in a Sept. 15 report to the UN Human Rights Council. “Such as fundamental principles of non-discrimination, self-determination, cultural integrity and property.”
While Canada initially voted against the declaration, the federal government has since pledged to give the document a qualified endorsement.
Anaya disputed Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s assertion in this past spring’s Speech from the Throne that the declaration is a purely “aspirational” document.
“The declaration is a strongly authoritative statement about the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, having been approved by affirmative votes of an overwhelming majority of UN member states on the basis of the mandate of the UN Charter to promote human rights,” said Anaya.
Anaya’s report delved into various Indigenous issues around the globe, including the ongoing impasse between Canada and the Lubicon Lake Cree Nation. It also outlined Akwesasne Mohawk grievances with Canada’s border agents.
Anaya said that Canada continued to breach international human rights standards by its treatment of the Lubicon people.
“It is apparent that federal and provincial government actors are proceeding to advance or facilitate development projects…on the assumption that the Lubicon have no rights to land other than the land the government has already agreed to include in a reserve.”
Anaya’s report on the Lubicons stemmed from the community opposition to TransCanada’s 300 km North Central Corridor natural gas pipeline which cuts through the Lubicons’ traditional territory.
The pipeline began transporting natural gas earlier this year.
Anaya repeated previous UN calls for Canada to stop all new development activity on Lubicon traditional territory until it reaches a land deal with the Lubicon people.
“Until the land claim is resolved…(a) moratorium should be placed on all new oil and extractive activities…in the territory over which the Lubicon assert rights,” he said.
Anaya also called on Canada to stop exploiting leadership divisions which had recently sprouted within the community.
“Care should be taken to not exacerbate or take advantage of any internal leadership divisions that may exist among the Lubicon people.”
The Lubicons have been battling with the federal government for decades to retain control of traditional territories.
Canada has been criticized several times over the last 20 years by the UN for its treatment of the Lubicon.
In 1990, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled that Canada was in violation of the Lubicon’s human rights.
The report also outlined Akwesasne Mohawk grievances with the Canada Border Services Agency.
Anay recounted last year’s border shut-down over Akwesasne’s opposition to the arming of border guards and the more recent claims of border agents harrasing Mohawks.
Anaya said he would continue to monitor the situation before issuing recommendations on the matter.