New Caledonia's Human Rights League has expressed surprise at last week's decision to cancel a planned population census.
The move followed criticism by the French president Jacques Chirac who said it was irresponsible and illegal to include questions about ethnic origin.
But the head of the Human Rights League, Elie Poigoune, told the territory's daily newspaper, Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes, that ignoring ethnic differences amounts to denying the existence of the indigenous people.
Mr Poigoune says there can be no talk of discrimination because New Caledonia with its Kanak people is recognised by the UN as a territory to be decolonised.
He says the French position on the issue is a violation of human rights that could put civil peace at risk.