OTTAWA-UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya concluded his tour of Canada earlier today with a press conference reviewing his findings.
Anaya met with federal and provincial government officials and indigenous leadership on a fact finding mission for the last nine days. He commended Canada for being at the forefront of human rights since the inception of the United Nations in 1945. However as a result of his findings, Anaya stated, “I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country.”
In his statement, which can be found online here, Anaya addressed many issues including housing for First Nations communities, the upcoming Education Act, suicide rates among indigenous people and missing and murdered aboriginal women.
He also spoke on the residential school system and said in his written statement, “It is clear that the residential school period continues to cast a long shadow of despair on indigenous communities, and that many of the dire social and economic problems faced by aboriginal peoples are directly linked to that experience. I urge the Government to ensure that the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission be extended for as long as may be necessary for it to complete its work, and to consider establishing means of reconciliation and redress for survivors of all types of residential schools.”
Anaya listened to indigenous people across the country share their grief on the matter of missing and murdered aboriginal women. In his statement he concurred for a national inquiry into the matter. He said he had an opportunity to speak with the RCMP last week about their current methods of investigation and what measures they are developing to assist in those investigations.
Anaya also discussed the housing crisis that faces many First Nations communities saying that funding is “woefully inadequate”. He urged leadership to treat the situation with urgency saying, “It simply cannot be acceptable that these conditions persist in the midst of a country with such great wealth.”
Perhaps Anaya’s strongest recommendation was for Canadian governments to improve their communications with indigenous leadership. He says, “I encourage the Government to take a less adversarial, position-based approach in which it typically seeks the most restrictive interpretation of aboriginal and treaty rights possible. In this regard, the Government should instead acknowledge that the public interest is not opposed to, but rather includes, aboriginal concerns. The goal of reconciliation that has been cited by the Government and indigenous peoples alike requires a more generous and flexible approach that seeks to identify and create common ground. Further, as a general rule, resource extraction should not occur on lands subject to aboriginal claims without adequate consultations with and the free, prior and informed consent of the aboriginal peoples concerned.”
When asked if he would be using the term genocide in his findings, Anaya said he will be examining the facts in relation to the removal of First Nations children from their families. He answered, “Historical deprivation of rights simply on the matter of the past have current manifestations. It has to do with the loss of culture, social upheavals and the social fabric of communities, poor educational attainment, the current housing situation, they are all related and they all relate back to the historical deprivation.”
Anaya’s findings will be reported back to the United Nations in 2014.