Canada elected a new government 18 months ago and it appears that they’re trying to prevent the UN Human Rights Council’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from being approved (adopted, in the official terminology) by the general assembly. To put this into perspective, the decleration and resolution, avaliable from here, took 24 years to negotiate.

I went and had a look at the resolution to see what could have been so odious that Canada would want to prevent it from becoming bound by international law, but it seems reasonable to me. Here’s an interesting excerpt that is especially relevant in a current local debate in Australia.

Article 13

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.

2. States shall take effective measures to ensure this right is protected and also to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.

Article 14

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.

2. Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the State without discrimination.

3. States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.

I draw particular attention to the last sentence, the one that orders States to provide education to indigenous people in their own language. So if Canada aren’t successful in hindering this declaration any further, bilingual education could become a matter of international law. Interesting.

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<update>

It appears that Howard may have had a slight helping hand in Canada’s change of heart, rather than it being due to merely a change in government.

The newspaper is quoting unnamed political sources as saying Mr Howard convinced Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit that the declaration would be “problematic.”

Although, ‘unnamed’ sources are always a bit sketchy, the timeline is curious:

Mr Howard visited Ottawa and the Toronto Globe and Mail says things began to happen within days.

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