"UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Government efforts to block progress at odds with the Canadian public"


News Release 2006 Amnesty International Canada

AMR 20/C08/2006
9 November 2021

"UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Government efforts to block progress at odds with the Canadian public"
An independent public opinion poll commissioned by Amnesty International shows that the vast majority of Canadians expect their government to support international standards for the protection of the human rights of Indigenous peoples.

The poll's findings are at odds with the actual role that Canadian officials have recently played within the United Nations.

In June, Canada joined with a tiny minority of states, led by the USA, in an unsuccessful campaign to delay adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the new UN Human Rights Council.

The Declaration is now before the UN General Assembly where Canadian officials have said they will vote against the Declaration despite its being widely supported by other states and by Indigenous peoples from around the world.

According to the poll results, more than 70 percent of Canadians feel that the UN should do more to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples around the world. More than forty-five percent of those who felt the UN should do more, said that it was "very important" that it do so.

More than 72 percent of those surveyed said that Canada should support the development of international laws and standards protecting the rights of Indigenous peoples, event if this meant some of Canada's current or historic laws and practices come under criticism or had to be changed.

More than 80 percent of Canadians said they would be concerned if Canada failed to support such standards, with more than one-third (34%) saying they would be "very concerned."

High levels of concern over Canada's support for international standards for the rights of Indigenous peoples was expressed in every region of the country and among supporters of all four political parties represented in the House of Commons.

"Canadians know that international action to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples is sorely needed. They realize and accept that may mean making changes here in Canada," said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. "Simply put, they do not want their government to stand in the way of Indigenous peoples being able to enjoy their fundamental rights, in Canada and around the world. The government should now do what Canadians expect and vote in favour of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it comes before the UN General Assembly."

To conduct the poll, Strategic Communications Inc interviewed a random national sample of 1,112 Canadian adults. The poll, which was conducted according to industry standard methods for scientific survey research, has a margin of error of 2.9%, 19-times-of-20.


The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides general guidelines for governments and state institutions around the world to counter racism and discrimination against Indigenous peoples and to promote their "dignity, survival and well-being."

The Declaration has been under development for more than 20 years. Canada played an important leadership role in the UN working group that finalized the text. By working in collaboration with Indigenous peoples Canada was able to advance a number of key provisions that addressed state concerns and built support for its adopt

However, since the election of the Conservative government, Canadian officials lobbied to have the Declaration re-opened for further negotiation and to encourage other states to oppose its adoption.

Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice has stated publicly that the Declaration conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but has never substantiated this extraordinary claim. The Minister has also said that the Declaration could lead to criticism of past and current Canadian laws and policies.

In fact, expert bodies of the United Nations have repeatedly criticized Canada's treatment of Indigenous peoples as incompatible with existing obligations under international human rights treaties.

The Declaration was adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June. Canada and Russia were the only Council members to vote against it.

The Declaration is currently under consideration in a committee of the UN General Assembly and is expected to come to vote before the General Assembly before the end of the year.