First Nations Blast Canada at CERD in Geneva
Indigenous leaders tell CERD that Trudeau Liberals are still engaged in racial discrimination
Daniel Mesec | August 18, 2017
Indigenous leaders from northern British Columbia and across the country are calling out the Canadian government on what they say are violations of their indigenous rights, in addition to ongoing racial discrimination against Indigenous Peoples. A delegation of leaders from the Wet’suwet’en, Gitxsan and Haida Nations from Northwest British Columbia traveled to Geneva this week to make their case before the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
They are asking CERD to investigate Canada’s environmental assessment policies, which they say violate many of their aboriginal rights backed by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Currently Canada is undergoing its periodic CERD review, and a report is expected by the end of August. It will focus on much of the testimony received on Monday August 14, especially that from northern B.C. First Nations who continue to oppose major resource development projects they say will have a detrimental impact on their lives.
“The ongoing pandering to multinational corporations through exploitation of resources is very much a threat to our ways of life,” said Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Deneza Na’Moks, (John Ridsdale), in the First Nations’ official submission to the convention. “We might be the first to live with the consequence of carbon-based economies that are already causing wholesale change to natural systems and suffering of people around the world.”
Canada’s environmental assessment laws, Na’Moks said, continue to measure financial benefits rather than the social, cultural and environmental impacts to communities. Although there are indigenous rights are clearly defined through the Declaration, the CERD committee didn’t have a clear understanding of how these rights have been violated in Canada and the difference between the hereditary governance systems and the elected band councils, Na’Moks contended.
“They weren’t aware of how atrocious Canada is on endorsing their own laws and then not upholding the UNDRIP and free, prior and informed consent,” Na’Moks said. “In response, Canada gave cut-and-paste answers. They were very weak in their replies to the committee.”
The Canadian government did not testify at the CERD meeting, whose purpose was solely to deliver testimony to the U.N. officials. But contacted by ICMN afterward, Canadian officials reiterated their commitment to rebuilding relationships with First Nations and said the work is ongoing, at the same time recognizing the shortcomings of current and previous governments when it comes to indigenous rights. …
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