Public Statement - August 9, 2011
(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC) In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared that the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples shall be observed on 9 August every year. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.
“Increasingly, more and more First Nations are strategically supporting each other not only across British Columbia and Canada but with Indigenous Peoples around the world,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “Whether it is a Vancouver based companies like Cap-Ex Ventures attempting to circumvent the rights of the Innu of Uashat mak Mani-Utenam in Labrador, Goldcorp’s Marlin Mine contaminating the drinking water of Indigenous communities in Guatemala or Taseko Mines’ attempt to pass off a ‘New Prosperity’ proposal as a net benefit to the Tsilhqot’in, as Indigenous Peoples it is abundantly clear our fight is the same the world over.”
After more than two decades of negotiations, UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the latest international human rights instrument, was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007. Canada was one of four states to vote against the Declaration. On November 12, 2010, the Government of Canada issued an official statement of endorsement.
Grand Chief Phillip observed, “The Declaration states that the rights it contains ‘constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world’ and yet the Government of Canada refuses to revise laws and policies to bring them into line with the international human rights standards set out in the Declaration.”
The UBCIC is working with Indigenous and human rights organizations to encourage governments, courts, human rights bodies and public institutions to use the Declaration as an authoritative source of guidance in interpreting Indigenous human rights and related state obligations.
“The Government of British Columbia is obliged to recognize its obligations under the Declaration. Rather than maintain its silence on the Declaration, the provincial government should engage First Nations on how best to reflect the Declaration in provincial laws and policies,” stated Grand Chief Phillip. “If the provincial government chooses to demonstrate its commitment to all human rights, it will start by legally recognizing the Aboriginal Title, Rights and Treaty Rights of First Nations.”
Grand Chief Phillip concluded “As Indigenous Peoples our fight for respect, recognition and for reconciliation begins in our respective territories. We are using the Declaration as a living instrument and as a principled framework for advancing our human rights as we take on governments and corporations in the boardrooms, negotiation tables, courts and on the international stage to ensure that our territories, environmental and cultural values are properly protected.”
For further information please contact:
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
UBCIC President, (604) 684-0231
UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.