Canada On Hot Seat Over Indigenous Rights

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 at 13:30



The federal government has been told it must do more to uphold the human rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Canada’s human rights record was reviewed by the United Nations Human Rights Council yesterday as part of the new Universal Periodic Review process.


Of the 45 states that spoke during the three-hour session, 30 raised concerns about the rights of Indigenous peoples.


The United Kingdom recommended that Canada give its “highest priority” to addressing “fundamental inequalities” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, including through “resolution of land claims and reconciliation of governance and self-government.”


The governments of Norway and Denmark called on Canada to reconsider its opposition to the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


The Norwegian representative also called for “comprehensive reporting and statistical analysis of the scale and character of violence against Indigenous women so that a national strategy can be initiated in consultation with Indigenous representatives to respond to the severity of this issue”.


Switzerland expressed concern over the lengthy process for resolving Indigenous land disputes and the concessions demanded by the government as a condition for settling claims.


Switzerland also urged Canada to “redouble its efforts” to resolve land disputes and to improve the mechanisms for doing so.


Deputy Justice Minister John Sims told the council the Canadian government is working with Aboriginal communities to agree on priorities.


He also said the challenges are “enormous, the scale of issues to confront is vast, and many of the issues are technically very complex”.


But he told the council the government is “moving ahead on many fronts”, including the areas of education, entrepreneurship, economic development, land claims and safe drinking water.


The report of the Council’s UPR Working Group will be released tomorrow.


The federal government will have until June to respond.