United States last no vote on U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

On Friday November 12, Canada endorsed endorsed the 2007 UN declaration that proclaims to protect the lands, resources, and human rights of the world’s 370 million indigenous peoples.

This puts more pressure on the United States government to do the same because the U.S. is the sole country in the U.N. to vote against the Declaration that has not changed its position to now suport the Declaration. The United States is currently reviewing its opposition to the U.N. Declaration.

In September 2007, something like 144 countries in the U.N. voted for the Declaration, with about 11 nations abstaining and with only 4 countries voting no – the USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The other three countries have now ratified the Declaration and removed their opposition leaving only the United States.

In reversing its position, Canada stated Friday that it “reaffirms its commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples at home and abroad.”

Canada listed a caveat to its support however: that the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples does not override Canada’s own legal framework for protecting native treaty rights. According to Canada, the Declaration is “an aspirational document which speaks to the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, taking into account their specific cultural, social and economic circumstances,” it said.

Canadian native leaders welcomed Canada’s endorsement of the declaration, saying it was a “positive step” toward improving relations between natives and the state.

Canada said it still has concerns over provisions in the text on lands and resources, aboriginal self-government and military issues, as well as balancing the rights of natives, third parties and the state. However it said it has “learned from the experience of other countries,” and added it was “now confident that Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the declaration in a manner that is consistent with our constitution and legal framework.”

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