Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Four settler nations voted against the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007: the United States, Australia, New Zealand (Aotearoa) and Canada.

It took a change of government in Australia--the replacement of the racist John Howard regime by that of Kevin Rudd--but that country signed on in April, 2009.

Now New Zealand, a year later, has endorsed the declaration as well. Kātahi nā ka tika!

So we're down to two holdouts. And they're still mousing around:

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice is scheduled to address the forum on Tuesday and will announce that "we will be conducting a formal review of the declaration and the U.S. position on it," according to an excerpt from her prepared text obtained by The Associated Press.

"Our first nations face serious challenges: disproportionate and dire poverty, unemployment, environmental degradation, health care gaps, violent crime and bitter discrimination," Rice says. "We recognize that, for many around the world, this declaration provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues."

The Canadian government said in a speech by the governor general [sic] last month that it would take steps to endorse the U.N. declaration "in a manner fully consistent with Canada´s constitution and laws." Indigenous groups have urged the government to embrace the human rights instrument without conditions or limitations.

I'll believe it when I see it, but perhaps, as the Declaration is not legally binding, the Harper government will grudgingly sign at some point. When it comes to the First Nations, after all, words for this government are cheap: they tend to be far preferable to deeds.*

*Not that federal governments, Liberal and Conservative, have been sleeping on the job. For example, it took the people of Attawapiskat First Nation a mere ten years, but now they have an actual promise of a school for their kids. And in just a few more years they might actually get one, too.

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