UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Please speak out!
PLEASE POST or PASS IT ON!
Within weeks, the United Nations General Assembly must make a decision on the long awaited and urgently needed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Either the international community will move ahead with final adoption as has been urged by Indigenous peoples and their supporters worldwide, or adoption of the Declaration will once again be delayed due to the demands of a small, yet vocal group of states.
Please take this opportunity to support the Declaration.
More than 14,000 individuals and organizations have already signed a global petition (see below) hosted by Amnesty International Canada in support of the Declaration.
If you haven't already done so, please add your name and encourage many others to do so.
The petition, in English, Spanish, French and Russian is online at:
"We reaffirm our commitment to continue making progress in the advancement of the human rights of the world’s indigenous peoples at the local, national, regional and international levels, including through consultation and collaboration with them, and to present for adoption a final draft United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples as soon as possible."
-- 2005 World Summit Outcome,
adopted by the UN General Assembly, 24 October 2005
In every region of the world, the survival or well-being of Indigenous peoples is threatened by grave and persistent violations of their fundamental human rights.
A strong and uplifting United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is urgently needed to establish minimum international standards to inspire and urge states and others to respect and uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples without discrimination.
We call upon all states to support as a priority the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Human Rights Council, Res. 2006/2, 29 June 2006, Annex) and its adoption by the General Assembly.
Even though the people made it clear during the different consultations that they need to relocate their community, the conservative government will announce funding sometime today to rebuild the community at its present location on the Albany River flood plain. See INAC press release below ...
Ottawa to rebuild Kashechewan reserve: Sources
Canadian press - Jul 29, 2007
OTTAWA – Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice will sign an agreement Monday to rebuild, but not relocate, the flood-prone Kashechewan First Nation, The Canadian Press has learned.
The remote northern Ontario reserve, near the coast of James Bay, is on low-lying land that has flooded twice in the last three years.
Residents were also evacuated in 2005 because of a dirty water crisis that made international headlines.
A report produced by consultants hired to survey the community said most people want to move to higher ground within their traditional territory. They say it's just a matter of time before their homes flood again.
The former Liberal government promised to relocate Kashechewan over 10 years, at an estimated cost of $500 million. The Conservatives said the Liberals never officially budgeted that cash, and that it's too expensive to move the reserve.
Instead, sources say the new agreement will establish a working group to assess the First Nation's long- and short-term needs, but will not move it off the flood plain.
INAC press release ...
Government signs agreement with Kashechewan First Nation to redevelop community
OTTAWA, July 30 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's New Government today signed an agreement with Kashechewan First Nation to redevelop a healthy and sustainable community in its present location.
The agreement was signed by the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, the Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Health, and Chief Jonathon Solomon of the Kashechewan First Nation.
"This agreement provides the framework for the people of Kashechewan to build a well-functioning, safe and healthy community," said Minister Prentice. "The decision to rebuild on the current site respects the wishes of residents to stay on their traditional land, and makes use of existing infrastructure."
"I am pleased that our Government has negotiated this agreement that will work towards long-term, sustainable improvements to the lives of all Kashechewan residents," said Minister Clement. "This process will allow us to better protect the health and safety of Kashechewan residents by further improving public health services in the community," added the Minister.
All parties will immediately begin work on a comprehensive community planning and redevelopment process to address priority areas such as: skills development; on-reserve housing; socio-economic sustainability; health programs and facilities; public safety; infrastructure development, remediation and maintenance; and schools and community facilities.
"My community is pleased to be moving forward," said Kashechewan Chief Jonathon Solomon. "We have faced a number of challenges and uncertainty in the past. Working in partnership with the Government of Canada to create a safe and stable environment, we can now look ahead to a brighter future."
A community development working group will prepare, plan, design and implement redevelopment projects to address the short, mid and long-term challenges of the community.
The community has experienced chronic high rates of unemployment, severe shortages of housing and a lack of critical infrastructure.
A steering committee of representatives from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Health Canada and Kashechewan Chief and Council, led by Patrick Chilton, an independent chair, will oversee the work as it progresses. Mr. Chilton is a member of the Kashechewan First Nation, with extensive involvement in community development in small isolated localities in northern Ontario.
Kashechewan First Nation is an isolated Cree community located approximately 420 kilometres north of Timmins, near the west coast of James Bay.
/For further information: Minister Prentice's Office: Deirdra McCracken, Press Secretary, Office of the Hon. Jim Prentice, (819) 997-0002; Minister Clement's Office: Erik Waddell, Office of the Hon. Tony Clement, (613) 957-0200; Media Relations - INAC: (819) 953-1160; Media Relations - Health Canada: Carole Saindon, (613) 957-1588; Kachechewan First Nation: Chief Jonathon Solomon, (705) 275-4440/4413; This release is also available on the Internet at www.inac-ainc.gc.ca/
Surfing in Saskatchewan goes wireless - Province aims to break the access barrier with free Internet availability
JOE FRIESEN - July 28, 2007
WINNIPEG -- Free wireless Internet service is now available in Saskatchewan's four biggest cities, making it the first province to launch a widespread, publicly funded network.
The initiative is part of the government's effort to position Saskatchewan as a high-tech learning centre that appeals to graduates and young professionals. They hope it will also help bridge the digital divide by making the Internet available to those unable to afford a connection at home.
"We're doing it to promote our cities as dynamic, progressive places to live and work and go to school," said Richard Murray, the policy and planning director in Saskatchewan's information technology office.
Anyone with a wireless adaptor is now able to log on to the network in the downtown areas of Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw, and that service will be extended to the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and the four SIAST college campuses by September.
The service is not quite as fast as the high-speed cable or DSL connection available to most home subscribers, but it's many times faster than dial-up. Mr. Murray said it works well for browsing websites and checking e-mail, but downloading video isn't recommended. Since it's a publicly funded service, users will also be blocked from visiting sites associated with pornography or hate groups.
Frank Quennell, the minister responsible for information technology, said the idea came from a youth summit held in Saskatoon in February.
"Here we got a good idea from the young people of the province and we were able to respond to it phenomenally quickly," he said. "Automatic teller machines were brought in to Canada by Saskatchewan credit unions. There's no reason why a flexible, responsive government [can't lead in other areas of technology].
"In Saskatchewan, perhaps it's naiveté that helps us make this kind of progress, but it doesn't occur to people to say we couldn't do that here if they haven't done that in Toronto."
The project was completed in just five months, at a cost of $1.3 million, with technology provided by Cisco Systems.
David De Abreu, a Cisco vice-president, said similar networks exist in other cities but aren't as widespread. "We haven't seen a province that has got behind it and done it in four or five cities. This one is by far the largest wireless network at the provincial or state level in North America," he said.
Fredericton has a free public network. Toronto had one downtown, but the city started charging for service this year. Mr. Quennell said that won't happen in Saskatchewan.
"This is not a tease or a test or an introductory offer. This is what we plan to provide as a public amenity," he said.
Ganesh Vaidyanathan, head of accounting at the University of Saskatchewan's N. Murray Edwards School of Business, said these kinds of initiatives contribute to a positive atmosphere, even if they don't contribute much to creating jobs, attracting workers or keeping graduates in the province.
"We have to brand ourselves as being relevant. Our economy is really heating up and these are things that young people are beginning to expect," he said. "It's a question of how you project yourself to the outside world. This is happening right across the globe, and for Saskatchewan to be able to say we're plugged in too is important."
August 8-9, 2007 in Sioux Lookout
NADF will be coordinating a Forum for representatives of First Nations who own and operate their own diesel generating stations for generating electricity.
While the last Remote Energy Forum was held in Feb. 2006, this Forum is specifically for those 12 First Nations who own/operate their own systems without Hydro One Remotes involvement. First Nations such as Wawakapewin, Wunnumin Lake, North Spirit Lake, Poplar Hill, Pikangikum, Marten Falls, Eabametoong, Nibinamik, Muskrat Dam, Keewaywin, Koocheching, and Weenusk are all invited to hear presentations that address their issues and to discuss a path forward for the future.
The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada urges government to share resource revenues with First Nations, as reported on their site at www.pdac.ca under aboriginal affairs and in the Northern Miner, July 23-29, 2007 edition.
The PDAC is a national organization that supports the mineral exploration and development sector of the Canadian mineral industry and is now urging governments to share resource revenues from mining and other natural resource developments.
Download the full discussion paper at www.pdac.ca/pdac/advocacy.aboriginalaffairs/index.html
Winter Roads 2007 Final Report Available on-line at www.nadf.org!
Presentations, notes, recommendations, and discussion summary of the Winter Road Forum 2007 held on June 12-13, 2007 are all available for community members to read at www.nadf.org; go to Tools & Resources; then to Community Resources; then to Reports. You will find a PDF file with colour documents. This document has been sent to all Chiefs & Councils, NAN, winter road companies, and delegates.
Tories' move on native rights rejected
Jul 26, 2007 - Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Applause erupted in a packed meeting on Parliament Hill as a rare, midsummer Conservative bid to push through contentious legislation was derailed by united opposition MPs.
The Tories want to extend human rights law to First Nations, but native leaders say they weren't properly consulted and don't have the cash to comply.
The national Assembly of First Nations has asked for a three-year transition period – as was granted to provinces before the Charter of Rights took effect – for education and preparation.
Conservatives have offered 18 months, up from the six months included in the original bill, but no new funding or formal consultation.
Reserves are largely excluded from human rights law because of a ``temporary" 1977 exemption that was never removed.
The government recalled 12 members of the Commons all-party aboriginal affairs committee today in a widely panned bid to move the bill forward.
Observers packed the public gallery in a sweltering meeting hall as tempers quickly flared around the committee table.
Conservatives accused their rival MPs of delaying human rights for vulnerable native people. Opposition MPs assailed the government for staging what they called a calculated political stunt.
Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs stressed that even if they agreed to review the bill – which they refused – it could not go back to the House of Commons for third reading until business resumes in the fall.
The meeting ended after just more than an hour when opposition MPs voted to suspend debate until the government formally consults First Nations.
"They really think they know best," Liberal MP Anita Neville said of the Tories as she left the heated session.
A long line of native witnesses who appeared last spring before the committee almost unanimously called for proper consultation and more time to get ready, she noted.
Concern was also raised that the Conservatives are trying to stress individual rights as a legal end-run that would undermine the collective land rights and communal practices of aboriginal people.
The big fear, critics say, is assimilation.
Others speculate that the Tories craftily put themselves in a position of being able to say that opposition MPs blocked their efforts to extend native human rights. This, as Conservatives have faced growing acrimony in recent months over what some native leaders say is hard-hearted aboriginal policy.
Chiefs and opposition MPs have emphasized their support for human rights protection. But they point out that many First Nations can't afford decent housing, let alone upgrades to make reserve buildings fully accessible.
Conservative MP Rod Bruinooge accused the opposition of stalling human rights for reserves – rights that other Canadians take for granted.
The matter has been debated "for 30 years" and the time for talk has passed, he said.
Bruinooge repeatedly said that his riding office in Winnipeg has received many calls from reserve residents wanting to lay complaints against their band council or Ottawa for discrimination.
When pressed by reporters, Bruinooge refused to say or even estimate how many calls he had received. Nor would he refer reporters to a single person pushing for the legislation.
Revealing identities could put those people at risk on their reserve, he said before cutting off questions.
Mary Eberts, a Toronto lawyer and human-rights specialist, says it's a bit rich for Conservatives to cast themselves as native rights crusaders.
This is the same government that's appealing a recent court judgment in British Columbia that, she says, is a major victory for native women.
The Conservatives announced earlier this month their intent to appeal a ruling in favour of Sharon McIvor. She successfully challenged part of the legal definition of a status Indian on the grounds that it discriminates against those who trace their aboriginal roots through female relatives rather than their father or grandfather.
Thousands of people have been denied status and services as a result, Eberts says.
It would be the ultimate irony if the Conservatives pushed through human rights access for native women – women who in turn would not be able to challenge similar discrimination as long as the McIvor case is bogged down in appeal, she said.
"If someone has a human-rights complaint, and the matter is being dealt with in court, they're told: 'You have to wait until the court rules."'
It's a classic case of political double-speak, says New Democrat MP Jean Crowder.
The Conservatives "are talking out of both sides of their mouths. Either they support human rights – which means they would not have appealed the McIvor decision – or they don't."
Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research
July 26, 2007
(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in Canada believe their federal administration should act on pending Aboriginal concerns, according to a poll by Angus Reid Strategies. 71 per cent of respondents believe the government should speed-up existing Aboriginal land claims disputes, and 64 per cent want Ottawa to do more to deal with poverty in Aboriginal communities.
According to the 2001 census, more than 900,000 Aboriginal persons inhabit Canada. In the 1990s, the Canadian government established the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to assess the success or failure of past policies and develop recommendations for future programs and projects. Nunavut and the Northwest Territories give official status to Aboriginal languages.
On Jun. 12, Harper announced major reforms to advance the process of Aboriginal land claims, saying, "Instead of letting disputes over land and compensation drag on forever, fuelling frustration and uncertainty, they will be solved once and for all by impartial judges on a new Specific Claims Tribunal."
Canadians are divided on the way their government dealt with the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 29 per cent of respondents think the federal administration was right to vote against the declaration, while 29 per cent disagree, and 42 per cent are not sure.
Earlier this month, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion urged Harper to sign the UN declaration "without delay", adding, "The face that Canadians want to show the world is that of a Canada who is a defender of human rights. We should never shy away from the responsibility that comes with this vision."
Indian affairs minister Jim Prentice defended the government’s position, saying, "(The declaration’s) wording is inconsistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our Constitution Act, previous Supreme Court decisions, the National Defence Act and policies under which we negotiate treaties."
Do you agree or disagree with these statements?
The federal government should speed-up
existing Aboriginal land claims disputes
Jul. 2007: 71%
May 2007: 68%
The federal government should do more to
deal with poverty in Aboriginal communities
Jul. 2007: 64%
May 2007: 60%
As you may know, Canada and Russia were the only members of the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—which provides minimum international standards for the protection of the dignity, well being and survival of the world’s Indigenous Peoples—in June 2006. Which of these statements comes closer to your own point of view?
Canada was right to vote against the declaration,
which is inconsistent with the Canadian Charter
of Rights and Freedoms and could prevent military
activities on aboriginal land 29%
Canada was wrong to vote against the declaration,
because the government has opposed a major
international effort to promote human rights and
fight discrimination 29%
Not sure 42%
Source: Angus Reid Strategies
Methodology: Online interviews with 1,040 Canadian adults, conducted on Jul. 17 and Jul. 18, 2007. Margin of error is 3.0 per cent.
AFN Press Release ...
Assembly of First Nations begins work on specific claims Task Force with Government of Canada
OTTAWA, July 25 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief, Phil Fontaine, and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Jim Prentice, have struck a Task Force to assist in the development of new specific claims legislation we expect will be introduced when Parliament reconvenes in the fall. The joint process will also address related concerns including how claims are processed by Canada, implementation and transition issues.
"The AFN welcomes dialogue with Canada to revolutionize the specific claims resolution process in order to be more efficient, effective and fair for First Nations and all Canadians," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "Currently, there are over 1,000 specific land claims that remain unresolved. At the current slow pace of settlement, it would take approximately 130 years to resolve the backlog."
In the government's response to the recent Senate Report, Confrontation or Negotiation: It's Canada's Choice, Minister Prentice stated that the principles of "fairness, inclusion, and dialogue" will be the basis upon which the Government of Canada will design and implement changes to the claims resolution process.
"The AFN intends to ensure that these principles are honoured at every level of discussion. To achieve effective change, reforms to the specific claims resolution process must be comprehensive, as reflected in the Senate's report," said National Chief Fontaine. "The AFN has significant experience in this area, dating back to the AFN-INAC 1998 Joint Task Force on Specific Claims that produced a Report and model bill. Although the model bill was never implemented, the process demonstrated success. Essential elements of that work should be contained in the new legislation, and finally become the law in Canada."
The AFN will work with Canada in three concurrent phases: (1) Reforming the system that processes claims; (2) development of legislation to establish an independent Tribunal; and (3) address implementation and transition issues, particularly the redesign of the Indian Specific Claims Commission and its mandate. Our approach will be consistent with previous work undertaken by AFN and Canada.
The Task Force will meet regularly over the summer. Eight highly qualified individuals have been appointed as Task Force members. Four will represent First Nations and the other four will represent the Government of Canada.
The Task Force's Co-Chairs will be Bruce Carson, Office of the Prime Minister, and Shawn Atleo, AFN Regional Chief, British Columbia, Other members include:
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.
/For further information: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of Communications, (613) 241-6789, ext. 229, cell.: (613) 293-6106, firstname.lastname@example.org; Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor - Office of the National Chief, (613) 241-6789, ext 243, cell.: (613) 298-6382, email@example.com; Josee Bellemare, Bilingual Communications Officer, (613) 241-6789, ext 336, cell.: (613) 327-6331, firstname.lastname@example.org/