First Nations - Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia

Northwest Coast indigenous culture, Grand Hall, Museum of Civilization, Ottawa, Canada. Photo: Eilonwy Anne


Northwest Coast art, Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Photo: Deus Irae

Indigenous leaders in Canada have worked hard for over two decades to bring about the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Mohawk Beverley Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, was among those who attended rallies at the UN headquarters (right).

Calling Canada's negative vote a "national disgrace" that reveals its flawed colonial policies, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs celebrated the passage of the UN Declaration as an historic day: News Release. Canada's refusal to agree to indigenous land rights has been widely condemned: "Canada will need to work hard to undo the harm done to its international reputation and influence by this unnecessary and unprincipled opposition to the Declaration" Alex Neve, Secretary General, News Release, Amnesty International Canada.


Indigenous Rights

On 13 September 2007, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the United Nations. The Declaration confirms that the survival and wellbeing of indigenous peoples depends on their access to and control of lands and resources. Scandalously, the only four votes against the Declaration were by the British settler countries of Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand. In spite of trying its best, "Canada could not break the international consensus that indigenous peoples have the right to self determination, land rights, and collective human rights ... Canada [cannot] call itself a leader on indigenous issues and a champion on human rights, when it is now clear and on the record of the UN that Canada lags behind all the other 143 nations that have voted in favour of indigenous rights" Nicole Schabus, International Advisor, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade:
This is a day to celebrate!

Mohawk Beverley Jacobs, UN, New York.
Photo: Amnesty International

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