FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 29, 2018
Experts on UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Tour Northwest BC
TERRACE, BC – Two of Canada’s authoritative voices on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) will be speaking in northwest communities on the declarations positive impacts. Both the Canadian and British Columbian Governments recently committed to fully adopt and implement the UNDRIP.
The Office of the Wet’suwet’en, Kispiox Seniors Association, Gitwilgyoots Tribe, and The Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs will host Paul Joffe, a lawyer for the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and Jennifer Preston, Indigenous Rights coordinator for Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers). Joffe and Preston were actively involved in the development of the Declaration and its adoption by the United Nations in 2007. They will be presenting in Smithers, Hazelton, Terrace and Prince Rupert from February 5th – 8th.
Last year Preston and Joffe presented in Prince Rupert to a group of Northwest Indigenous Leaders who wanted to know more about the UNDRIP and the legal framework regarding Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). A key objective was to gain a better understanding of how to use the Declaration to safeguard their rights, including those relating to lands and territories.
Although provincial and federal leaders have promised to rebuild Nation-to-Nation relationships with Indigenous communities, very few feel they’ve fulfilled their promise.
With a dramatic increase of resource extraction proposals throughout the Northwest in recent years, many are deeply concerned that their Indigenous Rights are being undermined by decisions made far from their traditional lands by non-Indigenous governments.
“What many are hoping to get from these presentations is a better understanding of how the Declaration protects Indigenous Rights and what that means for our communities moving forward in modern Canadian society,” said Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.
Last year Chief Na’moks, along with other Indigenous leaders from the Gitxsan and Haida Nations traveled to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) In Geneva to report on the continued discrimination of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Na’Moks hopes the presentations will give people a clear understanding of how to use the UNDRIP to defend their Indigenous Rights.
For more information, visit: undripnorthwest.ca
Jennifer Preston (Quakers) – (519) 835-5213
Paul Joffe (Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) – (450) 465-3654
Chief Na’Moks of the Wet’suwet’en Nation (John Ridsdale) – (250) 643-0771
First Nations have returned from Geneva, after presenting on racial discrimination
Rafferty Baker · CBC News · August 17, 2017
Leaders from First Nations across B.C. have returned home from Geneva, after presenting arguments on systemic racial discrimination experienced by Indigenous people in Canada.
The delegation addressing the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) shared its account of how Indigenous communities continue to face discrimination through federal policy.
“The overarching goal is to let the international world know that Canada has some very serious racial discrimination occurring toward First Nations people, systemically and systematically, and the fact that Canada continues to ignore its very own laws that flow from the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Chief Bob Chamberlain, vice president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
“The members of CERD were very interested in what First Nations had to speak about, in terms of Canada’s foundation, based upon the Doctrine of Discovery, which is a very racist document,” said Chamberlain.
‘Canada’s dirty little secret’
“The committee went well over time to ask questions, so I take from that they were quite keen and very interested to hear more and learn more about Canada’s dirty little secret about racial discrimination, as a country, towards First Nations people,” he said.
Chief Judy Wilson of the Neskonlith Nation is an executive member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. This was her first trip to Geneva to represent Indigenous communities.
“The CERD committee members were very responsive and had good questions for us internally, and they also had really good questions to the Canadian delegations, who I felt deflected and minimized the issues,” said Wilson.
“One hundred and fifty years years of colonization under the state, that’s what we’re fighting about, and the thing is, our people will continue to do that, because we have to do that ensure that, you know, everybody has the planet, the Mother Earth to take care of.”
Wilson said many of the issues around racial discrimination stem from struggles over land rights and title and major resource projects are often to blame.
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“As Indigenous people, we’ll continue to be at the international front, at the national front and in the provinces and wherever we need to be to continue the work we’re doing, because it’s very important to everyone,” she said.
Standing ovation at UN greets Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s announcement
There were cheers in the United Nations as Canada officially removed its objector status to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Tuesday, almost a decade after it was adopted by the General Assembly.
“We are now a full supporter of the declaration, without qualification,” Bennett said, as she addressed the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the United Nations in New York City on Tuesday.
“We intend nothing less than to adopt and implement the declaration in accordance with the Canadian Constitution.”
The declaration recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ basic human rights, as well as rights to self-determination, language, equality and land, among others.
Bennett — who received a standing ovation for her statement — is at the United Nations with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
“It was a very emotional moment for me,” said Chief Wilton Littlechild, a Cree lawyer and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada who was at the UN on Tuesday. Littlechild has been involved with the UN for nearly 40 years and said he’s rarely seen anyone receive a standing ovation.