The call by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples asking states to do more to honour and strengthen their treaties with indigenous peoples has found instant resonance here in Canada.
“Treaties and treaty making are the foundation on which this country was built. It is time for Canada to work with First Nations to honour its promises and give life to our inherent indigenous and treaty rights,” said Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo on Friday.
“These rights are acknowledged and affirmed in Canada’s own constitution and articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which compels both states and Indigenous peoples to work together in mutual partnership and respect on any activities that affect our lands, our lives and our people based on the standard of free, prior and informed consent,” Chief Atleo said in a statement.
“Even when signed or otherwise agreed more than a century ago, many treaties remain the cornerstone for the protection of the identity, land and customs of indigenous peoples, determining the relationship they have with the State. They are thus of major significance to human rights today,” the UN High Commissioner had noted.
“Indigenous peoples building alliances: Honouring treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements,” is this year’s theme for the international observance to underscore the need to protect the rights of an estimated 370 million indigenous people worldwide.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, also urged governments worldwide to provide a basis for much needed reconciliation and overcome all obstacles to the full realization of indigenous peoples’ rights.
“Indigenous peoples around the world face significant challenges that are related to widespread historical wrongs, including broken treaties and acts of oppression and misguided government policies, that today manifest themselves in disadvantages and impediments to the exercise of their individual and collective rights,” the UN expert said.
Chief Atleo said he would be meeting James Anaya when the UN expert visits Canada in October. He said AFN representatives met recently with Commissioners from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and will be meeting with the representative for the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in September.
The national chief said First Nations are building alliances and taking their message to the international community to ensure the world understands the reality here in Canada. “We are building support for action on an agenda based on mutual respect, recognition and partnership. It is time to embark on a new path that values Indigenous peoples, knowledge, languages and cultures.” – New Canadian Media