The Canadian government’s recent vote against the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a surprise move and is one that will cost Canada dearly.
Perhaps I better explain my thinking. Canada has a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. It was awarded one because of its stances on human rights and its work as peacekeepers and relief workers around the world.
Canada, under a different government, has also for the past two-and-half years lead the charge on the declaration itself. The Canadian government lobbied to make some changes but have said it was something that was needed.
Amoung those they lobbied were indigenous peoples who had no hope. They were tortured, murdered and lived in squalor while the wealth of their traditional lands was systematically looted. Then along comes Canada bringing hope to hundreds of different types of indigenous peoples.
Countries rallied around the Canadian banner held so high and proud. Not everyone was happy with changes to the original wording but they understood compromise would be needed to pass the declaration.
This is perhaps why people feel so betrayed. Canada under the Conservative Party is now seen as a Benedict Arnold by many of the groups that the country, under the Liberals, had requested support from.
An important point to consider is that not only the indigenous peoples are upset but countries such as NAFTA partner Mexico feel betrayed. What of the harm to Canadian’s reputation around the world? From being a role model for human rights, the country has quickly toppled off its pedestal. As a result, the average Canadian upon taking vacations around the world may find they no longer receive the same welcome they used to. Many will no doubt not even know why.
For those of you who want to know how the vote played out, only Canada and Russia were against the Declaration. In favour were Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Cameroon, Mauritius, South Africa, Zambia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Sri Lanka.
Those abstaining included Argentina, Ukraine, Algeria, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Jordan, Philippines and Ghana.
The Declaration will now travel to the United Nations General Assembly for ratification. This means all the countries around the world will vote upon it. It will be up for consideration from October to December.
The Canadian delegation will certainly be working hard to undermine the Declaration between now and then because of our new government’s opposition to the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples and the articles on land, territories and natural resources. Canadian First Nations expressed surprise as they said Canada supported collective rights when writing the text.
Perhaps given the fact that Canada was almost alone in going against a Human Rights Declaration, it is time they drop the hypocrisy and resign their seat on the Human Rights Council. This country has proven itself unworthy of such a prestigious position.