MONTREAL (AFP) — A leader of Canada's native community expressed disappointment Thursday with Ottawa's decision to oppose a groundbreaking United Nations measure on the rights of indigenous people.
"We're very disappointed with Canada's opposition to the declaration on indigenous peoples," said Phil Fontaine, leader of Assembly of First Nations.
"It's about the human rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. It's an important symbol," said Fontaine, who was in New York to lobby for the measure.
"It is disappointing today to see this government vote against recognizing the basic rights of Canada's First Peoples," Fontaine said after the vote. "This is a stain on the country's international reputation."
The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted the non-binding declaration protecting the human, land and resources rights of the world's 370 million indigenous peoples.
Canada was joined in its opposition by Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
The vote in the 192-member assembly was 143 in favor, four against and 11 abstentions.
Fontaine said however that despite his disappointment with his government, Thursday's vote was cause for celebration.
"While the Declaration is not perfect, it is a step toward setting minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous people everywhere," he said after the vote.
"It's a day to celebrate."
A joint statement from the Canadian ministries of Indian and Foreign Affairs criticized the document as "fundamentally flawed," in that it "contains provisions that are fundamentally incompatible with Canada's constitutional framework.
"It also does not recognize Canada's need to balance indigenous rights to lands and resources with the rights of others," the statement said.
The government statement added that Canada supports the "spirit" of the measure.
"Further negotiations are necessary in order to achieve a text worthy of Canadian support that will truly address the interests of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world," it said.
There are some 370 million indigenous people around the world, 1.3 million of whom live in Canada, which has a total population of 32.7 million.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »