OTTAWA — Canada’s decision to withdraw support for the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples coincided with a visit to Ottawa by Prime Minister John Howard of Australia — a country that strongly opposes the declaration.
Shortly after Mr Howard’s meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in May, 2006, Mr Harper called Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice to tell him to review Canada’s position of support, (Canadian) government sources said yesterday.
Although previous Liberal governments had difficulty with the declaration that had taken more than two decades to craft, by 2005 Canada was fully supportive and actively encouraging other countries to sign on.
But the United States and Australia remained staunchly opposed. And Mr Harper walked away from his meeting with Mr Howard believing the declaration would be problematic, the sources said. “It was very much the Prime Minister [Harper] directing Prentice to relook at this thing,” a source said.
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Mr Prentice has since said there are concerns that the declaration is unconstitutional, that it could prevent military activities on Aboriginal land and that it could harm existing land deals.
Sandra Buckler, a spokeswoman for Mr Harper, said yesterday that there is “no truth to it” when asked if Mr Howard had influenced Canada’s position on the declaration. But the sources were clear that there was a direct link between the visit of the Australian Prime Minister and the change in policy.
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