UNITED NATIONS – Grand Chief Stan Beardy representing NAN is one of the participants at the United Nation for the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
At the meeting, Fred Caron, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs of Canada, stated that “his Government had announced it would take steps towards endorsing the United Nations Indigenous Rights Declaration in a timely manner, fully consistent with Canada’s Constitution and laws. Also, this year, it had attended the Expert Group Meeting in January, and during the current session of the Forum, would share information on several aspects of its approach to indigenous development with culture and identity through statements and side events. Development programmes that had a negative effect on indigenous peoples’ lives had too often been the case in Canada; however, the Government was committed to working with aboriginal communities to address those issues, as well as work to ensure that aboriginal children received the education they needed for success. In efforts to eliminate discrimination, legislation to address gender discrimination related to Indian registration had been introduced and other issues of registration and membership would be explored with consideration to cultural perspectives”.
In addition, he said, “Activities would be undertaken to support indigenous communities in addressing the health impact of economic development and strengthen cultural aspects of health delivery. The Government had showed its commitment to promoting participation by aboriginal men and women in the economy with a two-year, $1.4 billion investment into aboriginal-specific programming.
Caron noted that “Key areas of commitment regarding the First Nations included child education, missing or murdered aboriginal women, capital assets and infrastructure, and access to safe drinking water. He stressed that the initiatives were only one element of the equation, as they were undertaken with the indigenous peoples in Canada to whom they were directed”.
One of the issues being addressed is the impact on ancestral lands by logging, mining and land conversion.
On day two of the Forum’s ninth session, speakers representing indigenous associations from Asia, the Pacific, North America and Australia alike called for broad adherence to the landmark 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, whose articles 3 and 32 outlined respect for self-determination and land-use rights, respectively. Some emphasized the ongoing conflict between indigenous peoples’ development perspective and that of the West, which was dominated by free-market capitalism, and pointed out that such models violated the collective rights of traditional cultures. Others called for the establishment of a special rapporteur on water.
The devastating impacts of logging, mining and land conversion had displaced indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands, commercialized their cultures and politically repressed their leaders, speakers in the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues stressed today, as they pressed the 16-member advisory body -– and their Governments — for help in achieving equitable and “restorative” development in their countries.
“Our water is being poisoned. Our woods are being cut down,” said a speaker from the Andean Platform of Indigenous Organizations. Another speaker, representing people living in isolation in the Amazon and Gran Chaco region of Paraguay, said mega-projects that attracted “external agents” and damaged forests were threatening people’s lives. He asked the Forum to carry out research to ensure that people were not being forced into contact.
A delegate of the Sand Hill Band of Indians said his people were descendents of the original inhabitants of the present-day United States state of New Jersey. While they had signed treaties with early Europeans –- “sovereign to sovereign” -– by 1802, the newly formed state had completely disregarded their most basic human rights, even for the indigenous to exist. He asked for assistance from the international community in restoring their international rights.
The day also featured a dialogue with Governments, whose representatives voiced concern at the persistence of entrenched social ills such as discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion that were difficult to change in the short term. Taking a broader view, however, Canada’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs said his Government would take steps to endorse the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a timely manner consistent with its Constitution. In the same vein, the United States representative said her Administration would formally review its position on the Declaration.
“There is no American history without Native American history [and] there can be no just and decent future for our nation that does not directly tackle the legacy of bitter discrimination and sorrow that the first American still lives with,” said the United States delegate.
Indeed, indigenous communities in her country continued to feel the heavy hand of history, she explained, particularly though disproportionate and dire poverty, unemployment and bitter discrimination. To rectify the situation, the Administration had moved quickly to launch programmes to improve the lives of Native Americans. The President had also appointed, early on, a Native American Policy Adviser and had begun to reach out to tribal leaders.
Discussing his country’s national efforts, Peru’s delegate said his Government had started series of dialogues with indigenous peoples and formed a group for coordinating the development of the Amazon peoples. The aim was to reach agreements covering that area and analyse events in Bagua province last June, in which many people had been killed.
Showing that indigenous rights were not only a matter of national concern, Germany’s delegate said that, in line with a new paradigm -– “development with identity” -– his Government was implementing a new type of development project, which revived cultural traditions as a means to facilitate common visions of indigenous communities in the highlands of Borneo, Indonesia.
Participating in the Permanent Forum’s dialogue with indigenous groups were representatives from the Pacific Caucus, Global Women’s Caucus, North American Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Global Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Indigenous Parliament for America, Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus, Indigenous Youth Caucus, Asia-Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN), International Indigenous Women’s Forum, Seventh Generation Fund, Enlace Continental de Mujeres Indiginas and Consejo Nacional de la Mujer Indigena Argentina.
Also taking the floor during that discussion were representatives from the Association Rohutu No’ Ano’A, Innu Nation, “Project Access Global Capacity Training”, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations of Australia, Comision juridical para el autodesarrollo de los pueblos originarios andinos (CAPAJ), International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development, Inuit Circumpolar Council, !Kwa Ttu – San Culture and Education Centre, Mayas of Guatemala and the Nepal Indigenous Nationalities Preservation Association.
The dialogue between the Permanent Forum and Governments featured presentations from the Minister of the Institute of Fishing and Agriculture of Nicaragua, the Minister of the Interior and Justice of Colombia and the Vice-Minister of Decolonization of Bolivia.
Also speaking were representatives of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Australia, Finland, Spain, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico, Nepal, Russian Federation, Sweden and Norway.
The Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, also spoke, as did the Permanent Observer of the Holy See.
A Forum member from Australia and a representative of the Torres Strait Regional Authority also spoke.
The Forum on Indigenous Issues will reconvene at 3 p.m. Wednesday, 21 April, to take up matters related to human rights, including implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.