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Canada's Statement of Support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010 expressed a "commitment to work in partnership with Aboriginal peoples" as part of "a shift in Canada’s relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples."

First Nations have been living under the repression of colonialism for centuries. Canada's indigenous peoples are the victims of a system of marginalization, oppression and denial that is perpetuated in the government's relationship with First Nations communities today.

These communities have living conditions that rank 63rd on the UN Human Development Index and face serious inequities in health, education, food security and housing.

An indigenous village in the Amazon is fighting desperately to protect their land from an oil company while a 2012 London-based report on human rights says indigenous peoples "in every region of the world" face the risk of being "driven from their land and natural resources."

Humanity is better than this. Canada is better than this.

 

Idle No More has gained worldwide attention as First Nations across the nation continue to rise up against Bill C-45. But it is more than a Canadian grassroots movement; it is spreading across the world. And it is an opportunity for Canada to become an international leader in honouring the rights of indigenous peoples.

Idle No More is about more than Bill C-45 or the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Idle No More is about dignity and respect. It is about creating a future. Together.

 

Two years ago, the Harper government committed to honouring the sovereignty of First Nations and their right to self-government and environmental protection. It is time to hold our government accountable to that commitment and demand justice.

Article 19 of the UN Declaration states that indigenous peoples must be consulted in order to obtain their free consent before implementing legislative measures that may affect them.

Article 25 states that indigenous peoples have the right to maintain their traditional relationships with their lands, territories and waters.

Article 32 states that indigenous peoples have the right to determine the use of their lands and that the government must consult with them before the implementation any project that may affect their lands, territories or other resources, particularly with regard to resource exploitation.

The Harper government endorsed this Declaration.

 

For the sake of our children, for the integrity of Canada's natural environment and our collective future, we must demand that Harper honour the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For the hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples that continue to struggle to defend their rights and achieve equality, Canada must take a leadership role in human rights. Harper must respect indigenous sovereignty and work in solidarity with Aboriginal leaders to make real change for First Nations communities and protect our environment.

The relationship of Canada's government with First Nations peoples began with conflict, marginalization and division, but it does not have to end there.

Together, we can create a new legacy.

Letter to
Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper
Minister of Indigenous Affairs John Duncan
Leader, Conservative Party of Canada / Chef, Parti Conservateur du Canada Stephen Harper
In 2010, your government committed to work in partnership with and protect the rights of Aboriginal peoples. This was a major step forward, a step away from a centuries-old system of colonialism. You stated a vision in which Aboriginal families and communities were healthy, safe, self-sufficient and prosperous.

Did you mean it?

First Nations communities continue to rank far below the rest of Canada on measures of development and quality of life. They face serious inequities in health, education, food security and housing.

Bill C-45 denies long-standing First Nations treaties and laws of self-government. It strips away important regulations for environmental protection and has inspired a movement rallying for recognition of indigenous rights.

What did it mean when Canada endorsed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Mr. Harper?

Did you mean it?

I remember the UN Declaration. I remember Canada's commitment to respecting indigenous rights and I am holding you accountable to that commitment. I stand with millions of other Canadians, native and non-native, to cry for justice.

This cry is echoing around the world.

Mr. Harper, there is still time to change. Canada can take a leadership role in human rights. You can set a new precedent by respecting indigenous sovereignty and working to protect our First Nations communities and environment.

Canada can create a new legacy of right relations. Your government can be part of that legacy.