Canada Undermines Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Obstructs ABS Protocol

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Ellen Gabriel (left) and Larry McDermott (right).

On October 21, Natural Justice attended a press conference held by the Native American and First Nations members of the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB). Armand Mackenzie (lawyer, Innu Nation), Ellen Gabriel (president, Quebec Native Women’s Association), Larry McDermott (Algonquin councillor, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation), and Paul Joffe (human rights lawyer) discussed the current obstructive position of the Canadian government in the negotiations towards an international protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS). They argued that Canada’s call to remove all references to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) undermines fundamental human rights and jeopardizes the entire negotiation process under the Convention on Biological Diversity. This position contradicts the Canadian Prime Minister’s 2010 Speech from the Throne and 2008 federal apology for residential schools, impedes international relations and progress to protect human rights and the environment, tarnishes Canada’s reputation globally, and casts doubt on Canada’s alleged intention to explore adopting UNDRIP. Four key elements of concern with the ABS protocol, which the speakers argued present huge challenges for Indigenous peoples, include: excessive interest in strengthening state sovereignty; no indication of intent to truly collaborate or consult with Indigenous peoples; generally, states are not willing to recognize that Indigenous peoples have rights to genetic resources; and the consensus rule backfires when it’s at the expense of the aims of the Protocol itself and of internationally recognized human rights.

21 October 2010

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