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The 360 degree turn Canada’s New’ish Government took on Native rights

A nice op-ed here in the Toronto Star this morning by Carol Goar further shows why I and others are skeptical that new minister Chuck Strahl is going to do anything productive while he’s in control of the Indian Affairs Ministry. The op-ed shows how Canada has for years been defending the concept of aboriginal self-determination at the UN in the quest to declare universal rights for indigenous peoples in a charter, and how that abruptly changed when Harper got elected.

The very points Canada was advocating to be put in this UN Declaration Harper and company now oppose because they claim it’s too vague, and more importantly, because it will go against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As former Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy points out, that’s an argument that doesn’t hold water:

“International human rights declarations have never been legally binding. Moreover, this one has an explicit clause – included at Canada’s insistence – stating that it must be interpreted in accordance with existing domestic laws.”

Worse, Canada is now apparently trying to lobby other countries – some with rather questionable human rights records according to the op-ed – to join it in insisting the treaty’s main points be changed. The majority of this 360 degree switch has occurred when the “moderate” Jim Prentice was the Minister. He obviously wasn’t as moderate as he appeared to be with regards to this, or else his views were brushed away by Harper. I hardly qualify Strahl as a moderate or a “bridge-builder”, hence my skepticism that anything will change – and that it likely gets worse.

I believe this is just more evidence of the overall pattern of indifference/antagonism that Harper and the Conservatives have towards First Nations peoples in general. Remember that the guy who has been Harper’s chief adviser, Tom Flanagan, has for years opposed Native land claims, and his book First Nations? Second Thoughts dismissed Canada’s Aboriginals as merely “first immigrants” and argued for their assimilation. A list of some of his other rather narrow-minded views on Natives can be found here at the bottom of the article.

Bottom line: while the Conservatives are in power, expect the hostility and antagonism and disregard for Natives to continue. Another good reason for me to vote them out (not that I need many).


4 comments to The 360 degree turn Canada’s New’ish Government took on Native rights

  • Scarey Conservative

    Why are the liberals and ndp'ers stopping this human rights legislation for Natives?
    "Three cheers for the Liberals for working to extend rights to everyone else but aboriginal Canadians living on reserves. I can imagine the room now, Liberals patting each other on the back, high fives – yeah, we really stuck one in the Conservative government didn’t we?"

    I guess they care more about personal political gain than actual human rights.

  • correction second line of comment
    "Liberals are no better"

  • I would agree with most of what you said,but the Liberals are kn better ,nothing has changed for First Nation no matter who was in power Lib's or Con's
    That little clause you referred to….
    "included at Canada’s insistence – stating that it must be interpreted in accordance with existing domestic laws.”…

    pretty much mutes the Draft Declaration,it lets the then Lib government(and future governments Lib or Con) interpret these rights.
    In affect it does the same thing the Conservatives are doing and trying to do(limit and ensure FN rights etc are watered down so as to pretty much ensure the status-quo) ,albeit the conservative are  very hamfisted in their approach

  • Scott, I couldn't agree with you more.  As I've noted in the <a href="">Indigenous Issues Today</a> news blog, Canada is one of the major opponents of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, along with several other countries (UK, U.S., Australia, Brazil).  What do these have in common?  Conservatives are in power, just as you noted. 

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