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Indigenous Peoples Cite Victories, Map Future on 7th Anniversary of U.N. Rights Declaration

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It’s time to “give life to the declaration,” the Assembly of First Nations decreed on this, the seventh anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

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On September 13, 2007, the U.N. General Assembly voted to adopt the historic document. Canada officially endorsed the declaration in November 2010, and the United States did so about a month later.

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“The U.N. Declaration calls on states to work in mutual partnership and respect with Indigenous peoples to address harm and inequalities and support and promote their rights, their cultures and governments,” said AFN National Chief Ghislain Picard in a statement. “The principles of the U.N. Declaration are a guide and framework for First Nations, the federal government and all Canadians to work together in ways that respect and implement Aboriginal and Treaty rights in the relationship between First Nations and Canada. Right now, the struggles and victories of First Nations to enforce their rights, Treaties and title are the defining issue of our age. Giving life to the Declaration will move all of Canada forward.”

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The anniversary falls days before the September 22-23 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (WCIP) convenes at the United Nations to discuss indigenous rights and implementation of the declaration, among many other issues.

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Citing victories such as the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling in favor of the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s land title in central British Columbia, the Ad Hoc Coalition on the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples called on Canadian governments to collaborate with aboriginals on resolving land and treaty disputes in a fair and timely fashion. In addition, the groups said in a joint statement, it’s time to abandon “adversarial and regressive approaches” to indigenous relations; to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and interests, most notably obtaining their free, prior and informed consent on decisions that affect them significantly; and respecting the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s Tsilhqot’in Nation vs. British Columbia ruling that aboriginal title incursions are not justifiable “if they would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.”

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“Affirmation of the land and resource rights of Indigenous peoples cannot be deferred for another generation,” said the coalition in the statement signed by Amnesty International Canada, the AFN, the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Chiefs of Ontario, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, First Nations Summit, Grand Council of Crees (Eeyou Istchee), the Indigenous World Association, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, the Métis National Council, the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Tsilhqot'in National Government and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. “Governments in Canada must act now, with urgency and good faith.”

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