MAC: Mines and Communities

UN human rights body criticises Canada over resource extraction

Published by MAC on 2012-03-20
Source: Statement, Indian Country Today (2012-03-14)

The Canadian government has not addressed the issue of persistent poverty among Indigenous Peoples, nor implemented the right to free, prior and informed consent, before undertaking projects that affect them or their lands.

This was among the conclusions, reached last week, by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

CERD also expressed concern over the impact of Canadian corporations, particularly mining companies, on the lands of indigenous peoples in other countries.

The key recommendations on this is Paragraph 14, which says:-

"While noting that the State party has enacted a Corporate Responsibility Strategy, the Committee is concerned that the State has not yet adopted measures with regard to transnational corporations registered in Canada whose activities negatively impact the rights of indigenous peoples outside Canada, in particular in mining activities (art. 5).

The Committee recommends that the State party take appropriate legislative measures to prevent transnational corporations registered in Canada from carrying out activities that negatively impact on the enjoyment of rights of indigenous peoples in territories outside Canada, and hold them accountable."

The full recommendations can be read at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.CAN.CO.19-20.pdf

For earlier CERD report, see: UN tells UK: ensure your mining companies respect human rights

UN Committee calls for "comprehensive strategy" to uphold the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada

Joint News Release

14 March 2012

The United Nation's highest body for combating racism is urging Canada to take comprehensive action to end discrimination against Indigenous peoples.

In a report released this week, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern over Canada's failure to properly respect the land and Treaty rights of Indigenous peoples, noting "the rigidly adversarial positions taken by Canada" in land negotiations and that decisions over resource development are often made without proper consultation or the consent of the affected peoples.

The Committee also expressed concern over a wide range of inequalities and disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, including the high rates of violence faced by Indigenous women, the large numbers of Indigenous children being placed in state care, "excessive use of incarceration" in respect to Indigenous people in trouble with the law, persistent levels of poverty among Indigenous communities and inadequate access to employment, housing, drinking water, health and education, "as a result of structural discrimination."

Recommendations from the Committee include calls for:

· A national plan of action to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

· Creation of a Treaty Commission.

· Sufficient funding to ensure adequate child welfare services in First Nations reserves and an end to the removal of First Nations children from their families.

· Good faith implementation of the right of consultation and free, prior and informed consent "whenever their rights may be affected by projects carried out on their lands."

· Strengthened efforts to end discrimination and violence against Indigenous women including a national plan of action on gender-based violence against Indigenous women.

· "Speeding up" the provision of safe drinking water.

· Giving preference, wherever possible, to alternatives to imprisonment for Indigenous offenders.

On many of these recommendations, CERD requested that Canada report back within one year on the concrete measures that it has taken.

The Committee also expressed concern over the impact of Canadian corporations, particularly mining companies, on the lands of Indigenous peoples in other countries. The Committee called on the federal government to "take appropriate legislative measures to prevent transnational corporations registered in Canada from carrying out activities that negatively impact on the enjoyment of rights of indigenous peoples in territories outside Canada, and hold them accountable."

Indigenous peoples' organizations and human rights groups are urging Canada to take the recommendations seriously and to work in collaboration with Indigenous peoples to ensure that they are implemented.

Amnesty International Canada
Amnistie Canada
Assembly of First Nations
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Chiefs of Ontario
Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Haudenosaunee of Kanehsatà:ke
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
MiningWatch Canada
Treaty Four First Nations

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:

Elizabeth Berton-Hunter
Amnesty International Canada

416-363-9933, ext. 332

Jennifer Preston
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
519-835-5213

Chief Perry Bellegarde,
Treaty 4 First Nations
613-293-4806

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Background

The International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination is a legally binding international treaty to which Canada is a signatory. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the independent expert body that oversees compliance with that treaty. Last month, Canada's record was reviewed at a Committee meeting in Geneva. The review process is a key mechanism for ensuring that states live up to their obligations under the treaty.

More than 35 Indigenous nations, national and regional Indigenous peoples' organizations, human rights and social justice organizations filed their own alternative reports. Some 20 Indigenous Nations and organizations sent representatives to Geneva to participate in the process.

An "advanced, unedited" version of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations was released yesterday.

The Concluding Observations are posted online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/CERD.C.CAN.CO.19-20.pdf

Submissions to the Committee are posted at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds80.htm


Canada Falls Short in Legally Binding International Treaty Review

IITC Press Release

13 March 2012

Today in Geneva, Switzerland the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) released an "advance unedited version" of the Concluding Observations from its recent review of Canada. Canada, the United States and other "State parties" to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) must submit "periodic reports" regarding their implementation of this legally binding international treaty.

The CERD also considers alternative or shadow reports submitted by civil society and Indigenous Peoples which usually present a different picture of a State's compliance with its commitment to eliminate racial discrimination in under the provisions of the ICERD.

For the CERD's recent review of Canada, the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) along with 11 other Indigenous Nations and organizations, submitted a Joint Indigenous Alternative Report addressing a wide range of concerns. It was one of more than 20 submissions from Indigenous Peoples and civil society.

The CERD's Concluding Observations contained a number of very important recommendations for actions to be taken by Canada, based on the information provided by Indigenous Peoples and other organizations.

These included: (1) the full implementation of treaties between Indigenous Peoples and the Crown (Canada); (2) ensuring that Canadian-based transnational corporations do not cause human rights violations impacting Indigenous Peoples in other countries; (3) implementing Free, Prior and Informed Consent regarding development projects impacting Indigenous Peoples lands; and (4) creating a national plan of action to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Chief Perry Bellegarde, Treaty 4 Spokesperson and Chief of the Little Black Bear First Nation attended the CERD review of Canada in Geneva. He expressed appreciation today for the CERD's report, commenting that "The CERD's recommendation that Canada ‘give serious consideration to the establishment of a Treaty Commission with a mandate to resolve treaty rights issues' is one which I urge Canada to implement."

Danika Littlechild, Ermineskin Cree Nation and IITC Legal Counsel, is focusing on what will happen next: "It is important that we continue the momentum and ensure that Canada actually implements the recommendations of the CERD, especially those relevant to Indigenous struggles in Canada. The CERD has laid out a road map for progress on these issues, including calling for a formal mechanism for implementation."

The United States is up for review by the CERD in early 2013, and IITC is available to provide training and information in preparation for this process. For more information on Canada's review, please contact Danika Littlechild, at (780) 312-0246

For more information on the upcoming review of the United States, contact Andrea Carmen at (907) 745-4482 or via email at andrea@treatycouncil.org. The Joint Indigenous Alternative Report, as well as the CERD's Concluding Observations regarding Canada are available online in full at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds80.htm.

Contact:
Danika Littlechild, IITC Legal Counsel
Phone: (780) 312-0246


UN: Canada Continues Discrimination Against Indigenous Peoples

By Gale Courey Toensing

Indian Country Today

14 March 2012

The federal government of Canada has not addressed the issue of persistent poverty among Indigenous Peoples, nor has it implemented the right to free, prior and informed consent before undertaking projects that affect them or their lands, a United Nations body has found.

Those critiques of the Canadian government's failure to address continuing racial discrimination against the country's aboriginal and minority populations were among two dozen "concerns and recommendations" cited by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). CERD monitors states' compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, one of the six major international human rights treaties. Each U.N. member country is reviewed cyclically.

CERD released its concluding report on racial discrimination in Canada on March 9, following a review of Canada's self-assessment and so-called shadow reports from more than three dozen First Nations and non-governmental organizations. Hearings were held at the U.N. in Geneva on February 22 and 23. Many of the recommendations in the new report were made previously and remain unaddressed since Canada's last review, in 2007-2008.

Chief Perry Bellegarde of Little Black Bear First Nation, in the province of Saskatchewan, who was among the First Nations representatives to participate in the Geneva hearings, welcomed the report.

"I was pleasantly surprised because a lot of the points raised were issues we talked about in Geneva," he told Indian Country Today Media Network. Among the many issues raised by indigenous leaders was the discrepancy in the U.N.'s quality of life index (also called the human development index) between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians.

"Canada is rated number six, but if you apply the same statistics to Indigenous Peoples we end up being number sixty-three, so there's a great socioeconomic gap between indigenous peoples and the rest of Canadian society," Bellegarde said.

CERD recommended that Canada eliminate "the persistent levels of poverty among aboriginal peoples and the persistent marginalization and difficulties faced by them in respect of employment, housing, drinking water, health and education, as a result of structural discrimination whose consequences are still present."

Other key issues that indigenous leaders raised were the lack of consultation and resource revenue sharing. The committee reported its concern that "aboriginal peoples are not always consulted for projects conducted on their lands or which affect their rights and that treaties with aboriginal peoples are not fully honored or implemented."

CERD told Canada "to implement in good faith the right to consultation and to free, prior and informed consent of aboriginal peoples whenever their rights may be affected by projects carried out on their lands."

Bellegarde said he was happy with CERD's recommendation regarding treaties, which comprise Section 35 of Canada's Constitution.

"And so the committee members quite pointedly asked Canada, ‘What mechanism do you have in place to implement Section 35 of your own Constitution?' " he said.

Canada must now develop a plan and a program to implement consultation and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in collaboration with indigenous peoples.

Perhaps most indicative of Canada's intransigence in addressing racial discrimination is its continuing failure to provide the CERD with the information it needs to do its job.

"The Committee remains concerned at the absence in the State party's report of recent reliable and comprehensive statistical data on the composition of its population including economic and social indicators disaggregated by ethnicity, including Aboriginal (indigenous) peoples, African Canadians and immigrants living in its territory, to enable it to better evaluate their enjoyment of civil and political, economic, social and cultural rights in the State party," the report says.

First Nations leaders will write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and various ministers to raise awareness of the CERD report to a national level, but will also elevate the issues into the international arena, Bellegarde said.

"Canada can't continue to go around the world claiming to be a great promoter of human rights when it hasn't been able to deal with this right in their own country," he said.

The treaties were based on peaceful coexistence, mutual respect and working together, Bellegarde said.

"Unfortunately, we see a huge socioeconomic divide and that's just not right in this rich country of the world called Canada," Bellegarde said. "We need greater investments in education, in housing, so we can participate in the economy. That's what this is all about-improving the quality of life so our children and grandchildren can have hope for the future."


First Nations, NGOs to Air Grievances on Canada's Racial Discrimination at U.N.

By Gale Courey Toensing

Indian Country Today

18 February 2012

More than a dozen representatives from First Nations and social justice organizations will air their grievances about racial discrimination in Canada in front of a high level body of the United Nations this month.

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will conduct its cyclical review of Canada's record of combating racial discrimination on February 22 and 23 in Geneva. The CERD is the body of independent experts that monitors compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, one of the six major international human rights treaties.

All U.N. members are obliged to submit regular reports to the committee on how they perceive they are implementing human rights. The committee also accepts "shadow reports" from indigenous nations, organizations and individuals that counter-balance the self-interested reports submitted by states. The committee examines all reports, holds two three-week sessions a year in Geneva to hear testimony from the parties and publishes its interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, known as general comments, on thematic issues, and organizes thematic discussions.

The Canadian federal government and more than three dozen First Nations and groups already have submitted reports to the committee, which are available online. The government defended its human rights record, citing the federal, provincial and territorial initiatives it has created in recent years to help stop violence against aboriginal women, help indigenous communities become self sufficient and other reforms.

But key issues concerning the rights of Indigenous peoples were glossed over or ignored in Canada's report, according to a press release distributed by Andrea Carmen, the executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC).

"It's important that the committee hear from Indigenous Peoples because Canada's report contains so many crucial gaps and omissions," Danika Littlechild, the IITC's legal counsel, said in the release. IITC coordinated a joint shadow report with 11 other First Nations and organizations.

One of the gaps, for example, is Canada's lack of consultation. Although consultation with Indigenous Peoples is a cornerstone of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and CERD urges states to consult with Indigenous Peoples and organizations before making their reports, Canada failed to do so before submitting its report, IITC said.

Canada also failed to report that it is in the midst of a landmark human rights complaint in federal court over discrimination in funding services for First Nations children on reserves.

"The situation of First Nations children is just one example of the kinds of urgent issues that deserve close scrutiny because Canada is not living up to the legal commitments it made in ratifying the Convention and other international human rights instruments," Teresa Edwards of the Native Women's Association of Canada told the IITC.

The CERD submissions from First Nations and organizations deal with an array of issues in addition to violence against indigenous women, including funding gaps for First Nations education, jurisdictional barriers that have impacts on health and social services for First Nations, mining on indigenous lands, protecting Indigenous Peoples' economic, social and cultural rights, the disproportionate numbers of incarcerated Indigenous Peoples compared to those in the general population, the lack of an action plan to implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Canada's undermining of the Declaration by government statements denying responsibility to ensure that policies and legislation live up to the minimum standards it sets out and other standards for protecting Indigenous rights.

Among the Assembly of First Nations' many recommendations is a request to the CERD to ask "Canada why it believes itself to be exempt from the application of the Canadian Human Rights Act in providing equitable funding, yet expects First Nations bands to fully be responsible for compliance with the Canadian Human Rights Act."

Representatives from more than 15 indigenous nations and organizations will travel to Geneva to participate in the process and speak directly to CERD members about their concerns.

"Indigenous Peoples in Canada face widespread discrimination and denial of our fundamental rights, including unacceptable living standards faced by far too many of our families and communities, the disappearance and murder of hundreds of Indigenous women, threats to our languages and cultures and the ongoing failure to recognize and uphold our Aboriginal and Treaty rights, including our rights to lands, territories and resources," Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) told the IITC. "International attention is needed because the government of Canada is failing to meet its domestic and international legal obligations address these urgent human rights concerns."

Shadow reports have been submitted by Amnesty International, Assembly of First Nations, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, First Nations Summit, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), Nagoya Protocol, Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), Haudenosaunee of Kanehsatà:Ke, Hul'qumi'num Treaty Group, Indigenous Bar Association, International Indian Treaty Council, Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, Dene Nation, First Nations Summit, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, Kontinónhstats-The Mohawk Language Custodians, Lawyer's Rights Watch Canada and the BC CEDAW Group - Violence Against Indigenous Women, Native Women's Association of Canada, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Six Nations of Grand River, Treaty 4 First Nations, Tsilhqot'in Nation, and the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

The CERD review will be webcast by the United Nations - http://www.ccprcentre.org/home/215

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