3 UN rapporteurs investigated allegations Ottawa retaliated against FN children’s advocate

Three UN rapporteurs investigated allegations the Harper government retaliated against a First Nation children’s advocate for launching a human rights complaints against Ottawa.

By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Three UN rapporteurs investigated allegations the Harper government retaliated against a First Nation children’s advocate for launching a human rights complaints against Ottawa.

The special rapporteurs for the rights of peaceful assembly, the situation of human rights defenders and the rights of Indigenous peoples wrote the federal government last November requesting an explanation for Ottawa’s alleged treatment of Cindy Blackstock, the president of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

Blackstock is currently in the midst of hearings before the Canadian Human Rights Commission on her complaint against Ottawa for underfunding on-reserve child services and for “retaliation.”

The rapporteurs reviewed allegations Ottawa cut funding to Blackstock’s organization in response to her decision to file the human rights complaint. The UN agents also reviewed allegations that federal officials attempted to dissuade First Nation people from meeting with Blackstock and spied on her.

“We urge your Excellency’s Government to take all necessary measures to guarantee that the rights and freedoms of the above mentioned person are respected,” wrote the three rapporteurs in the Nov. 7, 2013, letter.

The letter was signed by Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Margaret Sekaggya, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and James Anaya, special rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples.

In its Jan. 9 written response to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ottawa denied all the allegations.

“There has been no retaliation against Dr. Blackstock or any violation of Canada’s obligations under domestic law or under any international treaties to which it is a party,” said the federal government in its response. “The allegations conveyed by the special rapporteurs have been and are still in the process of being addressed by domestic remedial mechanism.”

The written response said that Canada would provide more information once the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal made a ruling.

Federal Justice Canada lawyers also used Ottawa’s response to the UN rapporteurs in a May 8 letter to Blackstock’s lawyer denying a request to enter into an agreement barring Aboriginal Affairs and Justice Canada officials from monitoring Blackstock’s Facebook page.

“No member of the litigation team that is responsible for (fighting the human rights complaint) is currently monitoring or otherwise accessing Dr. Blackstock’s personal Facebook page,” wrote Justice Canada lawyer Ainslie Harvey, quoting from Ottawa’s letter to the UN human rights commissioner. “Canada is not aware of any other public officials who are currently monitoring or otherwise accessing Dr. Blackstock’s Facebook page.”

Harvey went on to write that the Privacy Commissioner’s recommendation following an investigation into Ottawa’s spying of Blackstock provided enough guarantees that did not require Justice Canada lawyers to sign any agreements with Blackstock’s lawyers.

“(It) should provide the necessary assurance for your client that government officials are not accessing or attempting to access her Facebook page,” wrote Harvey.

The Privacy Commissioner told Justice Canada and Aboriginal Affairs to stop snooping on Blackstock’s Facebook page following an investigation that found officials gathered personal information on the children’s advocate.

The commissioner told the departments to destroy the personal information they had obtained.

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@JorgeBarrera