Federal bureaucrats are trying to water down the UN Declaration on Social Development because they’re worried it gives First Nations and minorities too many rights in Canada.
A fax originating from Indians Affairs was mistakenly sent to a Native organization in Ottawa which contains notes from a teleconference between top federal policymakers.
They worry about the declaration’s current wording because of “potential financial and other implications.” Sections in the declaration should be changed because they “could imply increased funding” for Natives by the government, the bureaucrats say.
The bureaucrats complain about one section which says: “(Countries will) recognize and respect the identity, culture and interests of indigenous people and support their aspirations to be self-sufficient and participate fully in the social, economic and political life of their country.”
If Canada gets its way the new phrasing will read: “Acknowledge the identity, culture and interests of indigenous people.”
The bureaucrats also argue against the idea of “ensuring respect” for the “culture and aspirations of indigenous people.” They prefer the milder wording “encourage respect”
The fax explains: “This is a more realistic commitment for all countries who may have difficulties in ensuring respect, including Third World parties.”
It is not only Aboriginal peoples that Canada’s proposed changes will affect Earlier in the declaration, one section says, “(Countries will) ensure tolerance, non-violence and pluralism and non-discrimination in full respect of diversity within and among societies.”
The bureaucrats wish to water this down by changing the words “in full respect of” to “taking into consideration.” This section affects everyone from Quebec’s francophone society to people of colour.
Rather than “recognizing that social development is a national responsibility,” Canada only wants to “encourage that social development is a national responsibility,” according to the fax.
These and other examples all came to light when a fax was mistakenly given to Darliea Dorey, Vice-President of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve Natives in Canada.
The fax contained notes from a conference call involving Jennifer Irish of the Canadian mission in New York, Wayne Lord and Deborah Chatsis of Foreign Affairs, Sylvia Batt of the Justice department and Graham Shaw of the Privy Council Office.
The notes were written by Marilyn Whitaker from Policy and Strategic Direction at Indian Affairs.
The teleconference was held on January 18 to discuss sections of the UN’s Draft Declaration of World Social Development that deal with Native peoples. The declaration is being prepared as the United Nations embarks on its International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
Whitaker has been assigned by Indian Affairs to lead Canada’s participation in the International Decade.
The fax came as a surprise to Dorey because the Canadian delegation at the UN had previously agreed to the existing wording. In a letter to Canadian delegates at the UN, Dorey says the comments in the fax “have left me appalled and is in no way keeping with Canada’s claim that they are world leaders with regard to their treatment of Indigenous people.”
Dorey says the fax contains “unacceptable comments” that are an insult to “the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and no doubt to all Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”
Dorey also said the fax opened her eyes to how the system works with the ministers giving you assurances while their officials work in the backroom in an entirely different direction from what the ministers are saying.
“It doesn’t help the process or the confidence or trust. It doesn’t help us go forward,” said Dorey.
Massachusetts Indian Affairs Commissioner Bruce F. Curliss declared he was surprised and shocked at Canada’s attitude toward its Native peoples.
“In this new era of world enlightenment towards indigenous peoples, it seems Canada is still in the dark ages. I have to reevaluate Canada’s claims to be a progressive country with equality for all in light of this information,”
The Indian Affairs Commissioner went on to say that he would be observing Canada’s actions and would take appropriate steps if needed.
Due to illness and a vacation, the Minister of Indian Affairs Ron Irwin and his office were not prepared to comment on the document at this time.
The next meeting of the World Summit on Social Development is March 6-10.