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Treaty relationship a common thread of concern, UN rapporteur says.

HOBBEMA, Alta.

Once more the United Nations has come down hard on Canada for the way it treats Indigenous people, saying, "Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of Indigenous peoples of the country."

In his closing remarks on Oct. 15, after a whirlwind eight-day tour across the country visiting First Nations and provincial and Federal government officials in six provinces, UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya said, "The well-being gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and Aboriginals' claims remain persistently unresolved, and overall there appears to be high levels of distrust among Aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels."

Speaking on Oct. 11 during his stop at the Maskwacis Cree Nation in Alberta, where Anaya held a community session in Hobbema, the rapporteur said "More so than making reference to the (United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People), several (of you made reference) to your treaties and I hear the importance of your treaties to the relationship you seek to have with Canada, with the larger society, through your histories, through your place in the world, through your affirmation of your rights."

Said Anaya in Hobbema, "The concerns that are raised today are of deep concern to me and deep concern I'm sure ... to the international community given the human rights nature of those concerns."

In his closing comments a few days later, Anaya noted that concern for treaty was a common thread from all Aboriginal leaders, as was the "significant level of discontent with the state of relations with federal and provincial authorities."

Anaya urged both the federal and provincial governments to "secure relationships based on mutual trust and common purpose."

Among the issues Anaya singled out was the call for a national inquiry into "the disturbing phenomenon" of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and girls.

"(It) would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic," he said.

Anaya also called for the federal government to not only extend the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also to include all residential schools in the settlement agreement. As it stands now, those who attended Metis residential schools and day schools are not eligible for compensation.

Anaya said trust by Aboriginal peoples for all levels of government was sorely lacking and the governments' one-sided approach was to blame.

"Concerted measures, based on mutual understanding and real partnership with Aboriginal peoples, through their own representative institutions, are vital to the long-term resolution of these issues," said Anaya.

He called on the federal government to shelve the First Nations Education Act until full consultation could take place; to Fully fund housing on reserves; to invest in building self-governing capacity for First Nations; and to revisit health and social programs, which are not in their present capacity addressing Aboriginal concerns or circumstances.

He also called on the federal government to embark on a less adversarial system when it came to Aboriginal and treaty rights implementation.

International Chief Wilton Littlechild, chair of the UN's expert mechanism on the rights of Indigenous peoples, says he is hopeful that Canada will take Anaya's comments and the recommendations from his final report seriously.

"I think given the status of (Anaya's) appointment, states like Canada, all states where he's gone to as a mission, need to respect his recommendations and seriously look at them for follow-up. That's what I'm hoping for in this case," said Littlechild.

Anaya visited Canada less than a month after the UN Human Rights Council called for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to conduct a national inquiry into violence against Aboriginal women. Harper refused the recommendation.

Ana.ya's final report will be made public in a few months.

By Shari Narine

Windspeaker Contributor
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Author:Narine, Shari
Publication:Windspeaker
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Nov 1, 2013
Words:637
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