Goal to pressure Ottawa to sign UN indigenous peoples declaration

BY JUDITH LAVOIE, TIMES COLONIST FEBRUARY 5, 2010

First Nations are planning to give international media at the Olympic Games a crash course in the fallout from Canada’s refusal to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The B.C. All Chiefs Task Force, formed last year to raise awareness of aboriginal rights and title, plans to carry out a campaign pressuring Canada to sign the declaration and highlighting perceived violations of human rights.

“Our sentiments have been voiced to political people, who choose not to respond, so our approach is going to be to appeal to the broader public,” said Cliff Atleo, Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council president.

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly passed the declaration in a 143-4 vote. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S voted against it, but Australia has since signed on and New Zealand is reviewing its position.

“Canada is not even thinking about it and our hope is for people to understand what that means,” Atleo said.

“We are tired of hearing Canada talk about its record on human rights when all these negative things are happening in their backyard.”

Grinding aboriginal poverty, little action on missing and murdered women and continuing land and resource disputes are exacerbated by Canada not signing the declaration, which sets standards for fighting discrimination and human-rights violations, Atleo said.

The federal government’s position is that wording of the declaration is too broad and some parts conflict with Canadian laws, especially when it comes to touchy issues such as land claims.

There is support for the four Olympic Host Nations and the All Chiefs Group has no intention of disrupting the Games, but members will capitalize on the influx of international media, Atleo said, providing the aboriginal perspective.

Kicking off the awareness campaign will be the Women’s Memorial March, Feb. 14 in Vancouver and Victoria, demonstrating support for the families of murdered and missing women.

Demonstrators will demand that Canada hold a public inquiry.

“I think that will catch the media’s attention,” Atleo said.

The First Nations Forestry Council announced last month that it will be working to catch the ear of international media during the Olympics to highlight the lack of economic opportunity for First Nations.

© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

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