First Nations leaders: Canada must obey international law – Including UN Declaration (as endorsed)

Another speaker at the forum, Quebec lawyer Paul Joffe, stated that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — which Canada signed in 2010 — has legal consequences in this country.

He cited a recent decision regarding a human-rights complaint about child-welfare services on First Nations reserves. “The Federal Court said the following: ‘The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the relevance of international human-rights law in interpreting domestic legislation,’ ” Joffe said. “So right away, you can see there are legal effects.”

The UN declaration has 46 articles calling on countries to protect indigenous peoples’ economic, social, cultural, political, environmental, and spiritual rights. The Conservative government has claimed that the UN declaration is “not legally binding”, describing it as “an important aspirational document”.

Joffe, however, adamantly rejected that argument. He noted that the Federal Court decision stated that Parliament “will be presumed to respect the values and principles enshrined in international law, both customary and conventional”. He said that conventional referred to treaties.

Two things must be demonstrated for customary international law to apply. “You have to prove that most states—not all states—adhere to the norm, and the second thing is that there must be a belief that they have some legal obligation to respect that norm,” Joffe stated.

As examples of customary international law recognized by Canadian courts, he listed the right to self-determination, an obligation to honour treaties, and prohibitions of genocide and racial discrimination. He maintained that the UN declaration can be read into Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which recognizes and affirms aboriginal and treaty rights.

“It hasn’t been decided yet,” Joffe acknowledged, “but it’s my view that one day the courts will have to recognize when it says ‘existing aboriginal treaty rights in Section 35’, it has to refer to all of the rights in the declaration.”

Chief Doug White of the Snuneymuxw First Nation told the audience at VCC that no Canadian court has ever had the courage to declare aboriginal title exists on one square inch of land in this country, notwithstanding decades of litigation. He also highlighted the importance of a 2004 Supreme Court of Canada decision, which imposes a “duty of consultation” on the Crown when making decisions that have an impact on aboriginal rights.

In addition, White stated that the UN declaration recognizes that decisions affecting the rights of indigenous people must be done with their “free, prior, and informed consent”. And he claimed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is “incorrect” when he claims that the declaration is not enforceable in Canada.

The federal government “was going down a pathway that has only become clearer and clearer to us this year,” White said. “So we need to be able to use international rights to achieve a proper pathway to respect and recognition in this country.”


UN panel hears natives’ complaints against Harper government

By: GLORIA GALLOWAY – OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail
(Published Friday, Feb. 22 2013)

Twenty Canadian first nations have taken to the world stage to accuse the Harper government of violating the human rights of their people and of failing to take action against “racist” media reports.

The communities – most of them Cree – made two presentations before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva on Friday.


In Canada, indigenous peoples (the term used in international law) are referred to as Aboriginal peoples, and include all original inhabitants of Canada as recognized by section 35 of the Constitution Act (1982) and comprise First Nations,49 Inuit and Métis. The 2006 Census numbers indicate that there are about 1.1 million Aboriginal people in Canada: 750,000 First Nations, of which over 600,000 are Registered Indians, about 50,000 Inuit across 53 communities, and over 350,000 Métis. In this context, the Special Rapporteur recalls that in human rights terms, indigenous existence and identity do not depend on State recognition or acknowledgment.  From: Human Rights Council – Twenty-second session – Agenda item 3 – Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development – Addendum – Mission to Canada

 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter – Section VIII. Indigenous Peoples
24 December 2012


About Rotinonshonni ónhwe - Tkanatáhere

We belong to families organized pursuant to ancient ways. Ka-nyen-geh-ha-kah (Mohawks) of Grand River support site. "Very simply, frauds and deceit have usurped this war reparation and robbed our people of what is rightfully ours, leaving us with only a Land Claim. Broken deals, fraud, embezzlement and genocide – and worse – all perpetrated at the unclean hands of too many to count at this time. We are (Mohawks) Ka-nyen-geh-ha-kah of Grand River, founders of the Five Nation League and what some call the "Great Peace".

2 responses to “First Nations leaders: Canada must obey international law – Including UN Declaration (as endorsed)”

  1. ohnwentsya says :

    Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    If it ever becomes possible to make Canada and the US actually obey international law, then not only the First Nations people within their borders, but poor people all over the planet will experience a huge difference in safety, environmental conditions, human rights and overall happiness.

    If we truly respect the rule of law, then that day MUST eventually come.

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