Fifth anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Urgent action needed to ensure that the human rights of Indigenous peoples aren’t violated by resource development at home and abroad

In a joint statement released on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous peoples’ and human rights organizations are urging governments in Canada to respect the right of Indigenous peoples to determine for themselves when, and under what conditions, resource development will be carried out affecting their lands and territories.

The Declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly on September 13, 2007 as “minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.” Although Canada formally endorsed the Declaration in 2010, the federal government has not worked with Indigenous peoples to ensure its implementation. Instead, in its efforts to promote resource development in Canada and abroad, the government has undermined rights protected in the Declaration.

The statement cites the federal government’s efforts to further limit environmental impact assessments for resource development projects in Canada, stating that “reliance on the often perfunctory reviews carried out at the provincial level is an abdication of the federal government’s responsibilities.”

Anne Marie Sam, of the Nak'azdli First Nation in central British Columbia, said, “Because of a mine that the province of British Columbia approved with only minimal assessment, my family no longer has access to the lands that we have looked after and relied on for generations. This is the future facing many other Indigenous peoples if we continue to be excluded from decision-making over resource development and our rights ignored.”

The statement also criticizes the role of the government in promoting Canadian resource corporations abroad, without adequate assessment of the potential harm to Indigenous peoples and without effective means to hold these corporations accountable.

Luis Evelis Andrade, Chief Counsellor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia stated, “The government of Canada has backed the expansion of Canadian corporations in Colombia without regard for the context of war and grave human rights violations in the resource-rich territory of Indigenous peoples.” The ONIC leader is in Canada to focus attention on the dire threats to the physical and cultural survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia. “It’s important for Canadians to understand that far too often our rights are pushed aside, and we are denied access to the clean water, food security and healthy environment that are indispensable to our survival.”

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International said, “With the adoption of the Declaration, the international community made a solemn commitment to break with the discrimination, marginalization and dispossession that has characterized the treatment of Indigenous peoples for centuries. Today, with ever increasing pressures on the lands, territories and resources of Indigenous peoples around the world, the fulfillment of that promise is more urgent than ever.”

The statement was signed by:

  • Amnesty International Canada
  • Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
  • Chiefs of Ontario
  • First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining
  • First Nations Summit
  • KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
  • MiningWatch Canada
  • The Treaty Four First Nations
  • Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs

For further information please contact:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada, tel. (416) 363-9933 ext 332, cell: (416) 904-7158