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Old 12-14-2006, 03:02 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Fontaine lobbies for rights treaty at UN

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FROM:
_http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=937ddef1-359f-466a-8b9a-22e128bff941_
(http://www.canada.com/montrealgazett...a-22e128bff941)
Fontaine lobbies for rights treaty at UN
First Nations chief seeks to sway African countries

STEVEN EDWARDS, CanWest News Service

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Canada's First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine joined indigenous leaders from
around the world yesterday to launch an international campaign aimed at
reigniting support for a treaty on aboriginal peoples' rights negotiated over 20
years.
He said the new push will focus first on trying to convince African nations
to reverse their newly voiced opposition to the draft Canada and other
European-colonized countries such as the United States and Australia have also
rejected in its present form.
Indigenous groups hope that winning back African support will have a snowball
effect to pressure the other countries into changing their positions.
The African caucus stunned the international indigenous community last month
when it voted in a key General Assembly policy committee to postpone action
on the draft treaty after approving it in the United Nations' Human Rights
Council in June.
The document, which calls for international recognition of native peoples'
right to self-determination and control over their traditional lands, needs
General Assembly endorsement before it can be offered to states for signature
and ratification.
"Over the next weeks and months we will be canvassing all member states,
starting with the African coalition," said Fontaine, national chief of the
Assembly of First Nations.
"We were shocked and disappointed at the recent postponement, and we feel
Canada's stance is a stain on its human rights (reputation) internationally."
Canada had been at the forefront of talks that began 20 years ago to create
the first comprehensive treaty recognizing rights of native peoples, but
withdrew support several months ago.
Canada said "parts of the text are vague and ambiguous," setting the stage
for competing definitions that could, for example, enable native groups to
reopen negotiations on already-settled land claims.
UN officials aim to get talks restarted for General Assembly action by next
fall.
The document as it stands retains the support of Latin American countries and
of Europe. But African countries - which vaguely define their indigenous
peoples as those who maintain traditional ways of life - withdrew their support
over the self-determination clauses.
While some African diplomats said their countries feared the provision could
spark rebellions, a few indigenous activists charged developed countries
pressured African nations into changing their votes.
The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
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