Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Rejects UN Rights Panel Call for Review of Violence on Aboriginal Women

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Rejects UN Rights Panel Call for Review of Violence on Aboriginal Women

Article excerpt

Canada rejects UN rights panel on aboriginals

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OTTAWA - Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Russia used a United Nations body Thursday to criticize Canada's human-rights record, as the Canadian envoy rejected calls to develop a comprehensive national review to end violence against aboriginal women.

Canada was responding Thursday to the UN Human Rights Council, which is conducting its Universal Periodic Review of Canada's rights record, on a wide range of issues from poverty, immigration and the criminal justice system.

Countries have their rights records reviewed every four years by the Geneva-based UN forum, but the Harper government has been skeptical in part because it allows countries with dubious rights records to criticize Canada.

On Thursday, that happened again.

Cuba said it deplored Canada's rejection of one of its human-rights recommendations, while Iran took Canada to task for rejecting four that it had made.

Belarus blasted Canada for not doing enough to combat child prostitution, and said it should allow a series of UN special rapporteurs to come to Canada investigate various topics.

Russia said it was "bewildered" that Canada rejected a recommendation related to the "brutal beating" of a Russian national in a Calgary jail cell.

Canada's ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Elissa Golberg, offered a brief rebuttal to Belarus, saying it should allow UN rapporteurs to visit, but did not engage directly with the other countries that criticized Canada.

"Canada is proud of its human-rights record, and our peaceful and diverse society," Golberg told the one-hour session.

While no society is entirely free of discrimination, she noted, Canada has "a strong legal and policy framework for the promotion and protection of human rights, and an independent court system."

Recommendations from those countries were among the 40 of 162 that Canada chose to reject.

That also included a rejection of a series of resolutions calling on Canada to undertake sweeping national reviews of violence against aboriginal women.

Golberg said Canada takes the issue seriously and that provincial and local governments are better suited to getting results on those issues.

In Ottawa, Shawn Atleo, national chief of Canada's Assembly of First Nations, said there is deep concern among aboriginals over the government's refusal to conduct a national review of the problem.

"There is strong support for this action domestically among provincial and territorial leaders and the Canadian public and strong international support, not to mention a multitude of reports and investigations that urge Canada to act," Atleo said in a statement.

The federal New Democrats also issued a statement calling the government's response "shocking."

In Toronto, Teresa Piruzza, the Ontario minister responsible for women's issues, expressed disappointment, saying it is "really a national issue."

But a statement from Justice Minister Peter MacKay's office said the government is focused on action -- not meetings and studies. …

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