Monday, December 15, 2008

AFN Chief Calls Canada's Record on Human Rights for First Nations Peoples Shameful

Canada's opposition to the human rights of Indigenous People at UN Conference on Climate Change is shameful says AFN National Chief
OTTAWA, Dec. 10 /CNW Telbec/

Assembly of First Nations

This International Day for Human Rights on December 10 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

"The United Nations theme for this year's anniversary is 'Dignity and
justice for all.' The Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents an
international commitment to dignity and justice for every person, for all
peoples, everywhere. Human rights are not a luxury; they belong to everyone.

Canada's denial of the rights of Indigenous people offends the core values,
principles and rights the UN Declaration of Human Rights represents," said
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine.

This statement comes after Canada opposed the recognition of Indigenous
rights in a new international initiative on climate change that was advanced
this week. The climate initiative known as the Reduced Emissions from
Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) at the United Nations Conferenceon Climate change is currently being held in Poznan, Poland.

The National Chief stated, "It is incomprehensible in an advanced
democratic state as Canada to choose to ignore the rights of Indigenous
people. We are physically, spiritually and culturally tied to our natural
world. We are tied to the land, water, and all aspects of the physical
environment. The denial of our rights in this important global climate change agreement violates our fundamental human rights as Indigenous peoples."

Canada, the United States and Australia expressed interest in including
reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in this agreement. It aims to fight deforestation in developing economies by tapping emissions trading markets in a future climate agreement that will follow up on the first phase of the UN's Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012.

However, as the text was being drafted yesterday, Canada joined the
United States, Australia and New Zealand in insisting that references to
Indigenous rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of
Indigenous Peoples be struck from the text.

"Canada's position at the United Nations Conference on Climate change is
the latest in a series of hostile decisions against Indigenous rights which
continue to affect Canada's international reputation as a defender and
promoter of human rights," said AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine.

The National Chief added that the refusal of the Canadian government to
sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
despite a motion passed in the House of Commons on April 8, 2008 which called on Parliament to implement and adopt the principles in the declaration offends Canadian law.

"Moreover the rights of our children are also compromised in this
country. The federal government has refused to address discrimination against First Nations children in the Child Welfare system and education. First Nations Child and Family Services agencies receive, on average, 22% less funding than provincial agencies, a point the Auditor General remarked upon in her May 2008 report," said National Chief Phil Fontaine.

The Auditor General criticized the program indicating that shortfalls in
funding mean the federal government is not providing First Nations Child and Family Services agencies with adequate funding requirements to meet the number or the needs of children in state care.

In October, the Canadian Human Rights Commission decided to put the case before the Canada Human Rights Tribunal. However, the federal government
recently filed for a judicial review on technical issues that will delay the
hearing and stall justice for thousands of First Nations children who are
living under state care.

"This is a complete contradiction of the Government's position, which in
the last Parliamentary session insisted that the Canadian Human Rights Act apply to First Nations citizens on reserve. However, this inconsistent
standard of human rights promotion and protection by the Canadian Government for First Nations children violates the principles of equality, fairness and universality of human rights. The rights of our children or any children should not be suspended on technicalities," the National Chief remarked.

Similar to the Child Welfare issue, other core programs for First Nations
children, such as education, have been capped at 2% a year, which does not
keep pace with inflation or the growing First Nations population.

"The deepening gap in the quality of life and well-being for First
Nations compared to Canadians continues to widen and this is not acceptable for any person or child, including First Nations," Fontaine noted.

Currently, First Nations students receive $2,000 less per child annually
for educational support than students in provincial schools. In 2007, INAC
identified a need for 69 new schools while another 95 schools needed major repairs. Approximately 40 First Nations communities do not have schools at all. INAC's current plan addresses only 27 of those sites, but the funding is on hold.

"On this day which celebrates human rights, I call on the Government of
Canada to do the right thing and uphold and promote the human rights of
Indigenous people and the human rights of our children".

The Assembly of First Nations is the national political organization
representing First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information: Karyn Pugliese, Communications Officer, Cell:
(613) 292-1877; Gina Cosentino, Government Relations and International
Affairs, National Chief"s Office, Cell: (613) 314-2661,


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