Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples deteriorated over past decade: UN report

Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples has deteriorated over the past decade, a report by the UN rapporteur responsible for investigation the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples.

APTN National News
OTTAWA–Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples has deteriorated over the past decade, a report by the UN rapporteur responsible for investigating the human rights situation of Indigenous peoples.

James Anaya, the UN rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples, found that “human rights problems faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada have reached crisis proportions.”

The report  also found that the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples was getting worse.

“The relationship between the federal government and Indigenous peoples is strained, perhaps even more so than when the previous special rapporteur visited Canada in 2003,” said the report. “Despite certain positive developments that have occurred since then and the shared goal of improving conditions for Indigenous peoples.”

Anaya visited Canada in the fall of 2013, touring communities in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. He also met with federal officials, including Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and the RCMP.

According to his report, Canada talks the talk of reconciliation, but it doesn’t walk the walk.

“The government of Canada has stated a goal of reconciliation, which the special rapporteur heard repeated by numerous government representatives with whom he met,” said the report. “Yet, even in this context, in recent years, Indigenous leaders have expressed concern that progress toward this goal has been undermined by actions of the government that limit or ignore the input of Indigenous governments and representatives.”

Anaya found that the economic conditions of Indigenous peoples has remained unchanged over the past decade.

“The most jarring manifestation of these human rights problems is the distressing socio-economic conditions of Indigenous peoples in a highly developed country,” wrote Anaya. “Although in 2004, the previous special rapporteur recommended that Canada intensify its measures to close the human development indicator gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians in health care, housing, education, welfare and social services, there has been no change in the gap.”

Aboriginal Affairs Minster Bernard Valcourt, however, viewed the report as validating Canada’s handling of Indigenous issues.

“The report published by the special rapporteur today acknowledges that, while many challenges remain, many positive steps have been taken by the Government of Canada to improve the overall well-being and prosperity of Aboriginal people in Canada,” said Valcourt, in a statement. “Our numerous laws, policies and programs aimed at addressing Aboriginal peoples’ concerns allow for a positive collaboration with Canada’s Aboriginal and Northern communities as we work together on shared priorities and towards a renewed relationship built on reconciliation and trust.”

Anaya’s report also calls on Canada not to push through natural resource projects unless there is “free, prior and informed consent.” The report lists several projects which face concerns from impact First Nations communities, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, the Alberta tar sands and shale gas exploration near Elsipogtog First Nation.

The report recommends that Ottawa extend the Truth and Reconciliations Commission’s mandate for as long as it needs to finish its work and provide compensation to all residential school survivors.

“The government should ensure that the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is extended for as long as may be necessary for it to complete its work,” said the report. “And should consider establishing means of reconciliation and redress for survivors of all types of residential schools.”

Ottawa has refused to compensate former residential school survivors who went to day schools, were taught in sanitariums or were boarded out.

In his report, Anaya criticized Ottawa’s treatment of the Mohawks of Akwesasne who are forced to go through customs checkpoints without ever leaving Canada. Akwesasne straddles the Canada-U.S. border.

“The federal government should work with Indigenous peoples in international border areas, in particular the Mohawk nation of Akwesasne, to remove barriers to their free movement within their traditional territories,” said the report.

The report also calls on Ottawa to call an inquiry into the high number of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

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