"Back in the Middle Ages it was assumed that the earth was flat or the sun revolved around the earth, - which is to say, as Copernicus later demonstrated, that the consensus on “the facts” can be wrong no matter how many people agree with them.
Something like this flat-earth assumption is facing leaders in Canada, the United States, and New Zealand when it comes to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—an issue which was recently raised again after Australia reversed course and signed the document. This impressive-sounding document was ratified by the United Nations in September 2007, with 143 votes in favour, 11 abstentions, and four states – Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand -voting against.
The reality is that this Declaration is unnecessary in Canada. Aboriginals already have entrenched constitutional and treaty rights under Section 35 of the Constitution Act. For instance, the Supreme Court and lower courts have ruled resource companies developing on traditional territories must consult and accommodate Native interests. Not signing it will not impact Aboriginal rights in Canada.
The latest target of this, “do it because everyone else is doing it” mentality is US President Barack Obama. Native American leaders are already demanding Obama ratify the UN Declaration, which his predecessor did not.
But why? Native American tribes in America enjoy a high level of tribal sovereignty. The U.S. Supreme Court long ago recognized that Native communities were “domestic dependent nations” and indigenous people in the U.S. have a level of independence from the government (independence that would make Canadian Aboriginals envious), including an impressive network of tribal courts.
If Obama was serious about “hope and change,” he should be encouraging Native Americans to enter into the mainstream, following his own inspiring story, one of the advancement for minority Americans within the system, not outside it."
Get the Story:
Joseph Quesnel: Flat-earth Aboriginal politics at the UN
(Canada Free Press 9/29)
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