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Inuit Circumpolar Council Leader Calls on Canadian Government to Follow Australia and Endorse UN Indigenous Rights Declaration

Inuvik – 2 April 2009

The president of the Canadian office of the Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC Canada), Duane Smith, praised the Australian government for endorsing tonight (3 April Canberra time) the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. At the same time, he expressed his disappointment that Canada has yet to announce that it will do the same.

“Today I celebrate with indigenous peoples in Australia and around the world”, said Mr. Smith from his Inuvik home. “Tomorrow I will call upon the Canadian Prime Minister urging him once again to do the right thing and endorse the UN Declaration”.

When the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration in 2007, Canada was among only four memberstates that voted against it. Today’s decision taken by Australian parliamentarians, coupled with strongindications from the Obama administration that the USA will follow suit, Canada and New Zealand will soon be the only remaining holdouts in recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples as described in the Declaration.

In Canberra, Australian Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin said endorsing the declaration was an important symbolic step for building trust with indigenous peoples. “We do this in the spirit of rethinkingthe relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians and building trust.”

Indigenous rights’ activist and this year’s Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, was the first to speak atthe Australian parliament in response to Minister Macklin. “The value of human rights is not in their existence; it is in their implementation” said Dodson. “That is the challenge for the world with this Declaration. The standards are set. It is up to us to meet them.”

USA-based ICC Chair, Patricia Cochran, said, “now that Australia has supported the Declaration, I hope our administration in Washington will do the same very soon – as well as the Canadian government”.

The ICC Canada president noted that “for 24 years, Australia, like Canada, was a strong promoter indrafting the Declaration but both countries eventually chose to vote against it.” Duane Smith concluded, “this Declaration is important for not only indigenous peoples but all who cherish human rights, andAustralia’s reversal in favour of our rights is very, very welcome.”

For more information pleases contact: Carole Simon
Executive Assistant
Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada Phone: 613-563-2642

Email: csimon@inuitcircumpolar.com

The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is an Indigenous Peoples’ Organization (IPO), founded in 1977 to promote and celebrate the unity of 180,000 Inuit from Alaska (USA), Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (Russia). ICC works to promote Inuit rights, safeguard the Arctic environment, and protect and promote the Inuit way of life. In regard to climate change, we believe that it is crucial for world leaders and governments to recognize, respect and fully implement the human rights of Inuit and all other Indigenous peoples across the globe.