Canada to align with UN on aboriginal rights

native affairs

OTTAWA – Canada is signalling it plans to embrace the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People — even as the federal government remains under fire for the dire conditions plaguing the troubled Attawapiskat First Nation.

In her speech to the UN, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is calling on the world body to confront colonial legacies and help rebuild communities for the world’s Aboriginal Peoples.

Wilson-Raybould says the declaration and the work of the UN should be a “means to an end and not the end in itself.”

That ultimate goal, she says, should be improving the quality of life for indigenous peoples and helping to ensure their way of life is protected and allowed to thrive.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett is expected to formalize Canada’s position on the declaration Tuesday during the UN’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Charlie Angus, whose northern Ontario riding includes Attawapiskat, was to be part of the Canadian delegation, but cancelled his trip in order to visit the community with Ontario counterpart Gilles Bisson.

Angus says conditions in Attawapiskat remain a source of great concern, one month after the community declared a state of emergency over its youth suicide crisis.

He says the reserve still lacks critical resources — shocking, he says, given the high-profile controversy surrounding conditions in Attawapiskat and the involvement of powerful people, including the Prime Minister’s Office.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has agreed to sit down with Attawapiskat’s chief, although no date for the meeting has been announced.