Indigenous delegates make final plea to UN for inclusion of rights in last hour of climate deal

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
Indigenous delegates attending the United Nations environmental meetings in Paris, COP21, believe it’s not too late for Indigenous rights to be included in the global treaty expected to be ready for signing this weekend.

Negotiations lasted into the early morning hours Friday in Paris as world diplomats continue work to create a global climate change deal.

Members of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) held a news conference Friday to appeal to member states at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) to include their rights in the treaty.

The text related to human and Indigenous rights was removed and bracketed last week- then it was removed all together in the latest drafts of the treaty.

Kenneth Deer, from the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory is in Paris and a delegate of IIPFCC. He said the lack of reference to these rights is disturbing. And their omitance from the treaty makes way for governments and corporations to continue violating Indigenous rights.

“Our peoples have been violated for centuries now,” said Deer. “Whether it was by colonization or globalization. If COP21 doesn’t protect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, COP21 will be the new globalization. Climate change will be used as an excuse to violate the lands and territories and natural resources of Indigenous Peoples.”

“Indigenous peoples are stewards of biodiversity, stewards of confronting climate change,” argued IIPFCC Africa caucus member Daniel Ole Sapit.

“Yet you (states) completely delete any reflection of their rights- this is a total sham for us! This needs to be looked at even with the one day that’s left of negotiations.”

There is mention of considering traditional Indigenous knowledge when it comes to finding solutions to climate change in the agreement.

Although COP21 member states recognize the connections Indigenous peoples have to the land, according to Deer it would render traditional knowledge ineffective without the inclusion of their rights.

“As Indigenous Peoples who’ve been warning the world for decades that the climate is changing, they didn’t listen to us then and we feel they’re not listening to us now,” said Deer.

“We have a lot to teach the world on how to mitigate climate change, global warming and we’re willing to share that. And we’re only hoping that the world will listen to us and help us to make the world a better place for all human beings to live in,” he said.

Canada is one of several countries advocating for the inclusion of human and Indigenous rights. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna has taken a lead role in Paris and is helping to facilitate negotiations. The final draft of the treaty was initially due Friday, but negotiations are now projected to go into the weekend.

“I am continuing to advocate for the inclusion of language on human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the text of the Paris Agreement,” said McKenna in a statement.

It’s been a long haul for negotiators trying to form consensus, working day and night to hash out the details on the final agreement.

“We’re entering the home stretch now. I am hopeful the final days and hours will see all parties with me at the table and working together to conclude this agreement. And that this agreement will become a new pathway to a greener economy and a cleaner planet.”

Meanwhile, over a hundred people from Indigenous communities from around the globe protested outside the headquarters of Total in Paris, an energy producing company connected to Canada’s tar sands.

Protestors concerned about pollution to Indigenous lands and high rates of greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s oil industry reminded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of his commitment to reduce global warming.

“Indigenous rights cannot coexist with tar sands exploitation,” said Daniel T’seleie, Dene community member attending the protest in Paris. “Colonialism in its current manifestation has Indigenous communities being held as economic hostages by Canada and multinational fossil fuel corporations like Total. Dependence on the fossil fuel economy needs to be replaced with local, sustainable economic opportunities in Indigenous communities if Indigenous rights are to be realized and protected.”

Celebrities attending COP21, like actor and environmentalist Robert Redford and actor Alec Baldwin are giving voice to Indigenous groups in Paris.

“I am here to capture the reality of Indigenous peoples and their culture,” said Baldwin while attending an event at the Peru Pavilion at COP21.

“Protecting forests and water goes beyond discussions, and that’s important.”

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