United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to Canada, James Anaya
Statement upon conclusion of the visit to Canada - October 15, 2013
I am now concluding my visit to Canada in my capacity as United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. Over the last nine days I have met with federal and provincial government authorities, and with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders, organizations and individuals in several parts of the country. In addition to being in Ottawa, my meetings have taken me to various places, including indigenous territories, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Québec.
I am grateful to the Government of Canada for its cooperation and for the information it has provided, and for allowing me to carry out my visit freely and in an independent manner. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to representatives of indigenous peoples who invited me to visit their territories and communities across Canada, and to those indigenous organizations and individuals who assisted me in organizing parts of my agenda. Finally, I especially want to thank the indigenous peoples with whom I met for sharing with me their stories, concerns and aspirations. I am honored to have been welcomed into their communities and territories, and am truly humbled by their hospitality and warmth.
Over the past several days, I have collected a significant amount of information from indigenous peoples and Government representatives across the country. In the following weeks, I will be reviewing the extensive information I have received during the visit in order to develop a report to evaluate the situation of indigenous peoples in Canada and to make a series of recommendations. This report will be made public, and will be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council. I hope that that this report will be of use to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people, as well as to the Government of Canada, to help find solutions to ongoing challenges that indigenous, or aboriginal, peoples in the country face. In advance of this report, I would like to now provide some preliminary observations and recommendations on the basis of what I have observed during my visit. These do not reflect the full range of issues that were brought to my attention, nor do they reflect all of the initiatives on the part of federal and provincial governments related to indigenous issues.
Canada, with its diverse and multicultural society, has been a leader on the world stage in the promotion of human rights since the creation of the United Nations in 1945. And it was one of the first countries in the modern era to extend constitutional protection to indigenous peoples’ rights. This constitutional protection has provided a strong foundation for advancing indigenous peoples’ rights over the last 30 years, especially through the courts. Federal and provincial governments have made notable efforts to address treaty and aboriginal claims, and to improve the social and economic well being of indigenous peoples. Canada has also addressed some of the concerns that were raised by my predecessor following his visit in 2003. These include actions to remedy gender disparities in the Indian Act and to providing access to the Canadian Human Rights Commission for claims based on the Indian Act. Additionally, Canada has adopted the goal of reconciliation, to repair the legacy of past injustices, and has taken steps toward that goal.
But despite positive steps, daunting challenges remain. From all I have learned, I can only conclude that Canada faces a crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country. 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 appear to be high levels of distrust among aboriginal peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.
Canada consistently ranks near the top among countries with respect to human development standards, and yet amidst this wealth and prosperity, aboriginal people live in conditions akin to those in countries that rank much lower and in which poverty abounds. At least one in five aboriginal Canadians live in homes in need of serious repair, which are often also overcrowded and contaminated with mould. The suicide rate among Inuit and First Nations youth on reserve, at more than five times greater than other Canadians, is alarming. One community I visited has suffered a suicide every six weeks since the start of this year. Aboriginal women are eight times more likely to be murdered than non-indigenous women and indigenous peoples face disproportionately high incarceration rates. For over a decade, the Auditor General has repeatedly highlighted significant funding disparities between on-reserve services and those available to other Canadians. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has consistently said that the conditions of aboriginal peoples make for the most serious human rights problem in Canada.
It is clear to me that Canada is aware of and concerned about these issues, and that it is taking steps to address them. I have learned about numerous programs, policies and efforts that have been rolled out at the federal and provincial levels, and many of these have achieved notable successes. However, it is equally clear that these steps are insufficient, and have yet to fully respond to aboriginal peoples’ urgent needs, fully protect their aboriginal and treaty rights, or to secure relationships based on mutual trust and common purpose. Aboriginal peoples’ concerns and well-being merit higher priority at all levels and within all branches of Government, and across all departments. 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.
Importantly, Canada has taken action toward the goal of reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians with the 2008 government apology for the residential schools and the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has been documenting the horrifying stories of abuse and cultural dislocation of indigenous students who were forced from their homes into schools whose explicit purpose was to destroy their family and community bonds, their language, their culture, and their dignity, and from which thousands never returned. Generations of aboriginal children grew up in residential schools estranged from their cultures and languages, with devastating effects on maintaining indigenous identity. 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. In addition, I would like to emphasize that the mark on Canada’s history left by the residential schools is a matter of concern to all of Canada, not just aboriginal peoples, and that lasting healing can only truly occur through building better relationships and understanding between aboriginal peoples and the broader society.
Another aspect of the long shadow of residential schools, combined with other historical acts of oppression, is the disturbing phenomenon of aboriginal women missing and murdered at the hands of both aboriginal and non-aboriginal assailants, whose cases have a much higher tendency to remain unresolved than those involving non-aboriginal victims. Certainly, both federal and provincial governments have taken steps targeted at addressing various aspects of this issue. Yet over the past several days, in all of the places I have visited, I have heard from aboriginal peoples a widespread lack of confidence in the effectiveness of those measures. I have heard a consistent call for a national level inquiry into the extent of the problem and appropriate solutions moving forward with the participation of victims’ families and others deeply affected. I concur that a comprehensive and nation-wide inquiry into the issue could help ensure a coordinated response and the opportunity for the loved ones of victims to be heard, and would demonstrate a responsiveness to the concerns raised by the families and communities affected by this epidemic.
These and further steps are required to realize the promise of healing and a new relationship that was made in the 2008 apology. Among all the government and aboriginal people with whom I have met, there is agreement that improving educational outcomes for aboriginal people is a key to addressing many of the other problems facing them. I commend the governments at both levels for placing a high priority on education. However, I have heard remarkably consistent and profound distrust toward the First Nations Education Act being developed by the federal government, and in particular deep concerns that the process for developing the Act has not appropriately included nor responded to aboriginal views. In light of this, I urge the Government not to rush forward with this legislation, but to re-initiate discussions with aboriginal leaders to develop a process, and ultimately a bill, that addresses aboriginal concerns and incorporates aboriginal viewpoints on this fundamental issue. An equally important measure for improving educational outcomes, and one that could be implemented relatively quickly, is to ensure that funding delivered to aboriginal authorities for education per student is at least equivalent to that available in the provincial educational systems.
As was stressed to me throughout my visit, it will be difficult to improve educational outcomes without addressing the substandard housing conditions in which many aboriginal people live. Young people described to me the difficulty they have studying in small homes overcrowded by generations of family members. Other social problems have also been linked to these overcrowded conditions, including high rates of tuberculosis and other health problems, family violence, unemployment, and unwanted displacement to urban centres. Overcrowding of homes leads to increased wear and tear and the premature deterioration of existing housing stock, resulting in dilapidated and often unsafe housing conditions.
It is abundantly clear that funding for aboriginal housing is woefully inadequate. The housing problem has a significant economic and social impact; the Chief of one community I visited indicated that if adequate housing were available, the vast majority of his community’s members with university degrees—nurses, teachers, engineers—would choose to return home. A woman from the same community who more typically had not had the opportunity to attend university, told me that as she became an adult she had no chance of having a house of her own, but rather was forced to remain in her parents home for years to come, with few prospects for developing a life on her own. “It is as if I’m not a person”, she said. I urge the Government to treat the housing situation on First Nations reserves and Inuit communities with the urgency it deserves. It simply cannot be acceptable that these conditions persist in the midst of a country with such great wealth.
By all accounts, increased investment in building self-governing capacity is essential to creating socially and economically healthy and self-sufficient aboriginal communities. One hundred and thirty years of Indian Act policies persistently undermined—and in some cases continue to undermine—many First Nations’ and Inuit peoples’ historic self-governance capacity. Enhancing economic development opportunities is also crucial to restoring and building healthy and vibrant aboriginal nations and communities. I acknowledge the many initiatives by Canada to strengthen aboriginal governance and catalyze economic development. And I applaud the many successes a number of aboriginal communities have had in building governance capacity and pursuing economic development opportunities.
But at the same time I note the frustration expressed to me uniformly by aboriginal leaders that their self-governance capacity and economic development, and improved conditions more generally, remain impeded by the multiple legacies of the history of colonization, treaty infringements, assault on their cultures, and land dispossession suffered by their peoples. To address these legacies Canada has developed specific and comprehensive claims processes that in many respects are models for the world to emulate. There are noteworthy success stories arising out of these procedures. But in their implementation overall, the claims processes have been extremely slow and mired in challenges—challenges that appear in most cases to stem from the adversarial structure of negotiations, in which entrenched opposing positions often develop on key issues and agreement simply cannot be reached. To make this worse, resource development often proceeds at a rapid pace within lands that are the subject of protracted negotiations between aboriginal peoples and the Government, undermining the very purpose of the negotiations.
The Government has rightly acknowledged problems with the claims processes. In 2008, it took action to reform the claims processes, including by imposing a time limit for settlement of specific claims. I commend the Government’s recent efforts to establish high-level oversight committees on treaty and comprehensive claims, which I hope will help to address in a timely fashion many of the concerns shared by both Government and indigenous peoples related to these processes. In this context, in re-thinking the available claims processes, 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.
More generally, greater efforts are needed to improve avenues of communication between Canada and aboriginal peoples to build consensus on the path forward. In all my meetings with aboriginal leaders and community members it was evident that there is a significant level of discontent with the state of relations with federal and provincial authorities, as well as a widely held perception that legislative and other decisions over multiple matters of concern to them are being taken without adequate consultation or consideration of their inherent and treaty rights. I urge the federal Government especially to work with aboriginal peoples, through their representative institutions and authorities, to overcome this condition of mistrust. As with the Education Act initiative mentioned earlier, unless legislative and other government actions that directly affect indigenous peoples’ rights and interests are made with their meaningful participation, those actions will lack legitimacy and are likely to be ineffective.
In order for the Government to move forward to address the concerns of indigenous peoples in partnership with them, it is necessary to arrive at a common understanding of objectives and goals that are based on full respect for indigenous peoples’ constitutional, treaty, and internationally-recognized rights. Indigenous leaders from First Nations with historical treaties repeatedly expressed to me their yearning for the friendship, respect and sharing of resources that they understand the treaties to embody, and aboriginal leaders look to future arrangements based on similar premises. Such aspirations provide a much stronger grounding for a Canada respectful of human rights than a premise of indigenous subjugation and extinguishment of rights.
In addition to historical treaties and constitutional principles, the international standards endorsed by Canada and aboriginal peoples, in particular the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, should inform the definition of common objectives and goals. Canada’s 2010 endorsement of the Declaration marked an important step on the path towards reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and Canada should be commended for joining most all of the rest of the countries of the world in support of this instrument. I was pleased to hear, throughout my visit, references by First Nations, Inuit and Métis people to the Declaration, and about the incorporation of its standards into their work. It is my hope that the provincial and federal governments in Canada, as well as the country’s courts, will aspire to implement the standards articulated by the Declaration. The Declaration can help to provide a common framework within which the problems that I have outlined here in a preliminary fashion can be addressed.
I look forward to developing more detailed observations and recommendations beyond these initial comments in my report to the Human Rights Council. My observations and recommendations will be aimed at identifying good practices and needed reforms in line with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international instruments that mark Canada’s international human rights obligations. I hope that this process will contribute to ensuring that the indigenous peoples of Canada can continue to thrive and maintain their distinct ways of life as they have done for generations despite the long shadow of a history of misdealing, enriching Canadian society for the benefit of all.
Connecting the Dots: Proposed National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking
Joy Smith, MP, for Kildonan – St. Paul, has put together a Proposed National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. This Proposed Action Plan was put together to empower us to action. She calls it Connecting the Dots because that is what it does. This proposal outlines what we have done as a nation so far in suppressing this crime and it gives a clear rationale for why a Canadian National Action Plan to curb the rapid growth of this heinous crime is needed. Without a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking and a collaborative effort between all levels of government, this crime will continue to grow and people will continue to be exploited.
It is her hope that this document will touch your hearts and your minds and that you will join her in doing everything we can to protect men, women and children from exploitation here in Canada and abroad. In the upcoming weeks, Smith will be adding more information on her website - www.joysmith.ca - on how you can help support a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. To view and download the Action Plan click on this PDF Document.
Analysis of the Action Plans to Act Against Human Trafficking
CATHII found that it was important to analyse each of the strategies, policies or measures suggested in order to assure the protection and interests of the victims themselves. Open this PDF document.
We analysed :
1. “An Exploration of Promising Practices in Response to Human Trafficking in Canada”: a report written by Nicole A. Barret for the International Center for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, a federal-provincial-territorial Forum of Status of Women Senior Officials in June 2010, 96 pages.
2. “Connecting the Dots: A Proposal for a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking” by Joy Smith, MP for Kildonan-St-Paul, September 2010, 36 pages.
3. “Invisible Chains: Canada’s Underground World of Human Trafficking” by
Benjamin Perrin, Viking Canada, 2010, 298 pages.
The second response by Sue Wilson, OSJ, targets specifically the Action Plan of Joy Smith “Connecting the Dots”. Open this PDF document.
A Short History of Slavery in Canada
Contrary to popular belief, slavery is a very real part of our Canadian history.
The First Canadian Slave
The first black person known to have lived in Canada was a native of Madagascar who was bought at around the age of 7 by the British Commander David Kirke during his invasion of New France and sold to Olivier Le Tardif, head clerk of the French Colony.
When Quebec was handed back to the French in 1632, Le Tardif, who had often collaborated with the British, was forced to flee. He sold his slave to a Quebec resident Guillaume Couillard Lespinacy. The boy was educated in a school established by the Jesuit priest, Father Le Jeune. He was later baptised as Olivier Le Jeune, taking the first name of the French clerk and the surname of the Jesuit priest. He died on May 10, 1654. It is believed that by the time of his death his official status was changed from that of 'domestic servant' to freeman.
A Common Practice
Slavery became a common practice in New France and the Church became the largest slave owner. Many have asked how could this happen, when in 1435 Pope Eugene IV in his Bull Sicut Dudum condemned slavery and those engaged in it, and those who ignore the Bull are excommunicated, ipso facto. In 1537, Pope Paul III issued the Bull Sublimis Deus that condemned slavery. Pope Gregory XIV, 1591, Pope Urban VIII, 1639, and Pope Benedict XIV, 1741 also condemned slavery. We can only assume that those Jesuits and religious sisters who owned slaves were automatically excommunicated.
In fact, the ports are the first places where slaves are put to work. This shouldn’t be a surprise as the transactions were often conducted at seas and therefore legal.
Next, the first farmers arrived in New France and were faced with a herculean task of being able to clear, build and work their farms in this quasi-inhabitable land. They demanded slaves, even though THEORETICALLY this practice was only legalized around 1689 by edict of Louis XIV, and solidified in New France in 1709 by order of the Intendant Raudeau.
Slavery as “Chattel”
The reason for this was simple: when a slave fled from his home, when he was found, the owner could reclaim his property. The legislation was therefore amended so that the slave would be recognized as “chattel” in front of a notary. “Governor Beauharnois, following the loss to the English forces, wrote to the French Minister of the Navy to inform him that they have capitulated to General Amherst, but the English were allowing them ‘their religion and their negros’”, wrote Paul Fehmiu-Brown.
How Many Slaves in Canada?
The historian Marcel Trudel has counted 4,092 slaves throughout Canadian history, of which 2,692 were Indians (the favorites of French settlers) and 1,400 Blacks (the favorites of English settlers) owned by approximately 1,400 masters.
The Montréal region dominated with 2077 slaves compared to 1,059 for Québec and 114 for Trois-Rivières. Many were owned by religious orders. Several marriages took place between French colonists and slaves (31 unions with Indian slaves and 8 with Black slaves) which means that a number of Québécois today have slaves somewhere in their family trees.
Going Back to Africa
Historians place some light on how some Canadian slaves were deported to Africa: “1783 and 1784 saw the fight for American independence. When loyalists faithful to the British Crown fled the USA, they settled in the Eastern Townships and along the Lachine Canal. The Canadian government bought some land in Sierra Leone and asked the slaves, who had become very numerous since the arrival of the loyalists, if they wished to return to their ancestral lands. Those who accepted the government offer brought with them, amongst other things, the British judicial system. That is why even today judges wear a white wig when they sit in Sierra Leone.'
This initiative was the inspiration for the United States, which founded Liberia in 1822, through the American Colonization Society, to send freed black slaves there.
Abolition of Trade
Ironically, it was the British Conquest that brought about the abolition of slavery. At the time of the American Revolution, slaves who fled their American owners were received here with open arms just like the loyalists.
In addition, in the first half of the 18th century, Great Britain was experiencing a movement that saw a return to authentic Christian gospel values know as the REVIVAL. This experience was similar to that of other Christian dissident movements in history such as the early Franciscans, the Waldensians, Wycliffe’s Lollards, the Anabaptists, the Moravian Brethren, and the Quakers and Diggers.
It was also in the 18th century that the very traditional Anglican Church was influenced by this movement deep within its own membership that resulted in this Revival movement reaching a large layer of British society. In this way, the first egalitarian and anti-slavery movement in the history of humanity was born. After having touched the Protestant countries, this breath of the Holy Spirit influenced France and its secular intellectuals in an indirect way.
In Canada, John Graves Simcoe, upon being appointed lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada in 1791, and influenced by this Revival movement, planned to establish a province where slavery was illegal, on the basis that the practice was inconsistent with a free nation.
In 1793, he convinced the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada to adopt the first measures that restricted slavery in the British Empire by banning the importation of new slaves in Upper Canada. This then launched a gradual process of emancipation.
As a result, it also made Upper Canada a safe haven for enslaved Africans in the United States who fled to freedom during the period of the Underground Railroad from 1815 to 1860.
In Lower Canada, the judges refused to clamp down on fugitive slaves, and Louis-Joseph Papineau failed in his attempt to have the ownership rights of masters over the slaves recognized.
Thanks to Simcoe, on March 25, 1807, King George III gave royal assent to a law abolishing the slave trade that marked the beginning of the end of this shameful practice by forbidding British ships from being part of the sale and transportation of slaves.
In fact, the British Parliament’s decision to abolish the slave trade was influenced by several factors. These included the work of the anti-slavery society formed in 1787 by Grandville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson; the campaign waged by free Blacks including Quobna Ottobah Cugoano, Thomas Peters, Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho; and the Haitian Revolution of 1804.
William Wilberforce persisted in his fight against slavery until 1833 when, on his death bed, he was informed that Parliament had adopted his law completely banning slavery. In 1834, the complete emancipation of slaves throughout the Empire was proclaimed.
By contrast, in France, who first had the desire to abolish slavery at the moment of the French Revolution, it wasn’t until 1848 that it was completely abolished.
Refuge for American Slaves
We must also remember those heroes who made Canada a welcoming land at the end of the Underground Railroad. Thanks to their efforts, tens of thousands of American slaves were able to flee and find refuge in British North America where thousands of black loyalists participated in the settling of Nova Scotia.
Finally, the role played by the courageous sailors of the Halifax Royal Navy must be mentioned, many of which were based in the port of Halifax. At great risk, and often against their own will, because they were forcibly recruited in Halifax, they helped enforce the ban on the sale of African slaves throughout the 19th century.
Are There Any Saves in Canada Today?
“There are at least 27 million people trapped in various forms of slavery in the world today, and that is more people than were trafficked from Africa 400 years ago,' said Jamie McIntosh, executive director of the Canadian branch of the International Justice Mission.
The extent of the crime in Canada remains disputable. RCMP figures say it ranges from 800 to 1,200 victims a year, while non-governmental organizations place the numbers at closer to 15,000. In Toronto alone, the RCMP estimates that 100 girls are being supplied yearly to the sex trade. They yield around $5-million for their bosses.
Most of the women trafficked into the country are from the Asia-Pacific region, in particular from the Fujan region of China and South Korea. Within Canada, victims can often come from Aboriginal reserves. In Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic, they mainly are from Eastern Europe.
CRC JPIC National
Ecology and Social Justice
JPIC National - We are developing an increasing awareness that human beings are in the process of destroying the planet’s resources, gradually making it less habitable for others. Let us only consider water that is becoming rarefied; air that is polluted; climactic changes that trigger natural disasters; fossil fuels that engender the greenhouse effect, etc. affecting poor nations whose agricultural industry will be threatened, or whose land will simply become plainly submerged by the rising sea in the south.
Over recent years, many religious communities have shown a true infatuation for environmental matters. High calibre theologians have developed a spirituality of Creation within the concept of a new cosmology. Many communities now offer awareness sessions and have adopted ecological and biological practices. A number of spiritual centres offer moments of inner renewal in a natural environment conducive to praising the marvels of nature, of life, light, water, and of the entire ecosystem that allows us to live in harmony with nature, while assuming our rightful position within it, and no more.
The need to increase our awareness
We are developing an increasing awareness that human beings are in the process of destroying the planet’s resources, gradually making it less habitable for others. Let us only consider water that is becoming rarefied; air that is polluted; climactic changes that trigger natural disasters; fossil fuels that engender the greenhouse effect, etc.
Destroying the environment, a substantial injustice
Indeed, this awareness of our planet’s beauty goes hand in hand with the realization of its fragile and threatened character. Presently, those responsible for destroying the environment, our planetary ecosystem, are also contributing to a substantial injustice, notably because poorer countries are feeling the environmental impact of their wealthy counterparts’ excesses. In the mid-term, even wealthy countries will not be spared and the poor from these countries will be the first affected. They will not be able to compensate for the floods, or the droughts, or the tornadoes, or the landslides which occur more and more often, even in wealthy countries.
150 million people affected!
And what to think of the effects of those climactic changes caused by oil consuming countries upon poor nations whose agricultural industry will be threatened, or whose land will simply become plainly submerged by the rising sea in the south? Predictions indicate that such catastrophes will trigger the displacement of some 150 million people before the year 2050. The injustice inflicted by wealthy countries to the poor will translate into hunger, insecurity and exile. The notion of development itself will have to be kissed away because international relief will no longer be able to restore the damage caused by natural disasters, including scarcity which is always followed by war, exploitation and violence.
Justice translates into solidarity with victims of environmental damage
Increasingly, injustices experienced at one end of the planet will be caused, at the other end, by environmental abuses performed by people who persist in abusing the planet’s limited resources, who do not believe in sustainable development, and who especially don’t realize the non-viability of their present consuming habits. The new concept of justice will first translate into solidarity with the victims of environmental damage. It will also point to the development and sharing of alternative forms of energy, along with the pursuit of a new balance in consumer lifestyles across the globe.
Our role is to prophesize, to prophesize in the sense of announcing that catastrophes will occur if nothing is done towards the respect of Creation; yet as prophets, we must also promote the Good News that some men and women are indeed sensitized to contemporary challenges and to those means still available to salvage our very heritage from God. A challenge aimed at planetary reconciliation.