Linking Arms Together (Part 7): UN Declaration Panel
Linking Arms Together (Part 7): UN Declaration Panel

>>As I was listening to Chief Little
Child, I was thinking of my hero. And some of you here who Have taken courses
with me in the past and some of you who are my colleagues know precisely who I am
speaking about. None other than Nelson Mandela. And as I listen to Chief
LIttlechild what I was recalling was not only his life and his continued. Struggle
to insure that human rights is maintained globally, but I was also thinking of the
speech that he made in defense in the, in his, in the trail. How for him he was
willing to die for the principles that he believed in. The principles of justice,
the principles of non-racial discrimination. And as I thought and as I
listened to Chief Littlechild I thought of the Afro-centric concept called
Ubantu. And the Afro-centric concept Ubantu. Advocates and urges that our
humanity is contingent on the humanity of others. And that we ourselves only have
humanity when we extend that to other people. And as I listened to the
eloquent. Articulation of the links associated with the U, United Nations
declaration the rights of indigenous peoples and, the way in which his
articulation picked up on the links and the urgings of Dr. Marlene Brant
Castellano, I considered, how important it is for us to recall, the spirit of the
proclamation that today, we are bringing to witness. The proclamation, was a
proclamation. That spirits suggested, that we would indeed walk arm in arm. And
what I see here today, is the spirit of that very notion, that is being
revitalized. And to process that revitilization, I’m very delighted to
introduce the next speaker. Chief Edward John, who is the hereditary chief of the
Tatien Nation. he, sorry. My mistake, I’m, I’m, I’m kind of moving ahead of
myself. we’ll replay it. what I’d like to do is introduce Craig Benjamin and he in
turn will introduce the panel. Thank you. My apologies.>>Thank you Peter. my name
is Craig Benjamin, I’m a Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples
with Amnesty International Canada. And on behalf of my, my friends and colleagues
on this panel I’d like to acknowledge the of new credit and especially to express
our thanks to Gary and Tina Su who opened us this, they opened the the meeting this
morning. To the territory and of course, express our thanks to New York University
for organizing this, important event and providing with this opportunity to be
part of it. I know I’m very honored to, be able to join such a distinguished
group of presenters today. We’ve heard today, very powerful words, very
important words. We’ve heard words that were, that were very hard to hear. And
one can only imagine how hard they must have been to share. We’ve also heard
inspiring and uplifting words, encouraging us to, to look to our future.
This built as Doctor Castiliano have said, on a profoundly different
relationship. And we’ve heard chief Willy Littlechild talk about the UN declaration
as setting up a framework for that new relationship. And a relationship which is
very much, as with any relationship, about both partners. About indigenous and
non-indigenous peoples and Dr. Castellano and Willy Littlechild gave us Both that
image of th, the linking of arms in this, this work. What we want to do with it in
this panel is explore that, in some detail in the substance of what the UN
Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples has, set out for us. The
Declaration is the first inter-national human rights instrument to be developed
with the direct participation of the rights holders themselves. And its
provisions reflect the vision and the needs of those, those rights holders. The
fact that it took more than two decades to, for the declaration to be adopted is,
is an indication of the resistance that indigenous peoples met in that, that
struggle. But it’s, it’s eventual adoption is a remarkable triumph all the
more so for the fact that today even those few states that had voted against
the declaration have not officially withdrawn their objections. So it stands
as a global consensus instrument. The declaration provides minimum standards
for the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and it builds on an
established body of human rights, and it links the declaration to those other
standards such as the conventional on the rights of the child. And this the panel
that we have with us for this session are people who played and instrumental role.
In advancing the framework of rights that would become part of that declaration,
who played a direct role in many cases in the, in that negotiation in Geneva. And
who have been real champions of the declarations of effective implementation
in Canada and around the world. The format that we’re going to, to take for
the next, the hour and 45 minutes, is that each panelist is going to make, a, a
very brief introductory comment. About the significance of the declaration from,
from their perspective. Then we’re going to an exchange among panels. I’m gonna
ask us a series of questions of each one. we hope that it’ll be somewhat informal,
and free-flowing. and then we’ll turn the room over to you for your own questions.
Let me briefly deduce each of the, the members of the panel. To my immediate
right Ellen Gabriel is the vice president of which is the Mohawk Language
Custodians Association. She is one of the most prominent defenders of human rights
in Canada. and the work that she is doing both in her own community of and her work
the coalition includes many of our organizations, is at the forefront of the
work of implementation of the UN declaration. Jennifer Preston is with the
Canadian Friends service committee, the Quakers. Jennifer is somebody who plays,
who has played multiple roles as somebody who is both a, highly expert in the work
that needs to be done, has been a lead voice for, moving forward the
declaration. But she has also done an enormous amount of, of that behind the
scenes work. without which we all know you make very little progress. and I
think, is somebody who deserves credit as well for her role in bringing this panel
together and her contribution to this event today. Roméo Saganash is a member
of Parliament; he represents the writing of Abitibi-James Bay-Nunavik-Eeyou is
expert on international law and the rights of indigenous peoples, and
somebody who has really played an inspirational leading role in forging
that alliance and relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous peoples in
support of the declaration and Helped open the door and build up relationships
with organizations like myselves, like Amnesty, like the Quakers. And the
panelist at the furthest end of the table, Paul Joff, is a lawyer
specializing in international human law and how it applies to the rights of
indigenous peoples. Paul is respected internationally for his work in this
area, and he’s somebody who has given his time and his expertise with great
generosity, and has played an enormous role in strengthening the capacity of
indigenous peoples organizations and non-indigenous peoples organizations, in
this common work. >>and so with those brief introductions,
I’ll ask each of the panels to, to, as I say, make a brief introductory remark.
and begin with Ellen. >>. thank you it’s a great honor to be
here. I am Turtle Clan from the community of . Okay name is , and it’s a great
honor to be amongst such esteemed, knowledgeable and generous people, on, on
specifically in the area of human rights. And it’s most important to me because.
One of the things that is really important, as far as I’m concerned is
yes, I’m talking about reconciliation between indigenous peoples and Canadians.
Because of the, the traumatic experience we’ve had with colonization but also
reconciliation amonst ourselves. As indigenous peoples, amongst ourselves.
What colonization did to our people, was cultural shame. Shame to speak our
language, a shame to practice our cultures, in fact many of our ceremonies
went underground, or practiced at night. especially it’s odd for cultures like
mine that do most of their ceremonies during the day, and I’ve had many elders
who have taught me over the years in the courses and the crises. Many of them have
been men, interestingly enough >>And one of my elders taught me about the
doctrine of discovery. And he taught me about that we never seeded any of our
lands. And in fact, sharing our land is not the correct word We allowed people to
come and sit on our territory, to make their homes, and we would help. They
would help us as well, take care of the lands and all our relations, and for me
the declaration Because of the, the devastating impact that colonization has
had on us as indigenous people, people. And undermining, and making us in fact,
deteriorating our obligations, to the land. To each other. That this tiny
little document that we have here is one of the framework, one of the tools we can
use for reconciliation even amongst ourselves. Cuz it tells us as people, we
have rights. We don’t have to be ashamed anymore to speak our language. We don’t
have to be ashamed anymore to say I’m a . And where I come from. An international
body. With the cooperation and full participation of indigenous people
created an international, the most comprehensive international human rights
instrument. That did not create new rights. In fact we enforced the rights
that we already had before Europeans came here. And to me, that is one of the most
important things about the declaration and that is why I continue to do this,
because 23 years after the Oka crisis My community has lost more land. And we have
been under attack by coercive efforts by the government of Canada. and I’m waiting
to here the government of Canada actually say, they are truly and sincerely,
without any regrets and without any thought of the cost. The money that it’s
going to cost them to have real sincere reconciliation. Peace, love, strength,
respect. That is the basis of . And that is where reconciliation begins for me. .
>>just by way of introduction, one of the reasons well for both Craig and I all,
although I promise him not to speak on his behalf. although I often do. But
organizations like ours were involved in the declaration during its development,
during the decades in Geneva, and one of the reasons that we were is something
that actually Willy touched on in his presentation today. And he was talking
about nonindenenous peoples being at terracy g/ hearings. And what he said
then was, that you bear witness. And 1 of the reasons that organizations like the
Quakers and like Amnesty were in Geneva during those decades of work, it wasn’t
because we were part of negotiating, because we were not. Because the work
being done with states was indigenous peoples doing negotiating with states.
But our organizations were there to bear witness to what was happening and how
that process was a unique process. In many ways, as Craig says, the rights’
holders were part of the negotiation. Also, in the amount of time that it took
to create this declaration, it makes it the most discussed instrument in the
history of the United Nations. And so, organizations such as, often we would
get, oh, why are you here, you know, what’s your connection? why would your
organizations be interested in this? Because when the Human Rights have
indigenous peoples are somehow presented as less important than Human Rights for
other peoples, we all have a problem. And, and we should all be concerned about
that, and that is also reflective of what,what the TRC is talking about, about
nonindigenous peoples, bearing witness through that experience. This is
something that we all need to be engaged with, and so that is what has motivated
our work. both during the, the years of development and now in the work on
implementation. And one of the, when we were talking about this, to prepare for
this, one of the things that I was looking at was a quote that’s actually
from the Honorable Rosalie Abella who’s now on the Supreme Court, but this quote
is from her, was not, she did not give this as part of her work on the Supreme
Court. But this is from a, a law article where she says: Silence in the face of
intolerance means intolerance wins, indifference is injustices incubator, it
is not what you stand for, it’s what you stand up for. We need more than the
rhetoric of justice, we need justice and that of course is why non-indigenous
organizations >>And non-indigenous individuals are to be
part of, of this ongoing work and have been part of it and continue to be part
of it. >> . Those were a few words of greetings and
welcome and thanks as well. I was up in Kuduwak yesterday my leader Danny P.
Leader of the opposition. So it’s about 2500 kilometers from here. It was hot and
sunny up here and it’s cool down here . How they say in French . pretty I was
honored to be invited to this panel because I get to see people that I
haven’t seen for a while since the work that we’ve done over the years in Geneva.
Not that I miss them a lot, but , I’m busy. I’m busy now as a member of
Parliament. And I represent the second largest in the country. In fact I
represent more than half. Of the land mass in Quebec. So I always like to say
that you’re looking at half of the province of Quebec right here, right now.
I’m honored to, to see them as well because those were, those were one of the
fringe benefits I guess I would call them from doing all this work over the last.
For oven 20 years, for my part, I started in 1984, in Geneva on the invitation of
Dr. Grand Chief Ted Moses, in 1984. Asked me to accompany him to Geneva, and I
liked the way he put it then, in he said, Romeo, why don’t you come You don’t have
to do anything. You don’t have to say anything. Just watch and that is what I
did. And I learned over the years with the people that I met in Geneva. And one
of the better things that happened in Geneva as well is that we forged such
great friendships with so many people, so many great people and so many. Great
minds, so I’m, I’m honored to be sitting with, with all of these panelists here
today, to see some of my good friends Willie and Annette today. I was born in
the bush, and lived off the land with my parents and siblings for the first Six or
seven years of my, my life we’re not too sure exactly. I’m registered 62 with
affairs 61 . I don’t know why. but for, for six and seven years my life I spent
living off the land hunting fishing trapping with my father, my mom, and my
siblings. And Dr. Castellano spoke about the fact that reconciliation runs through
the land. I can relate to that statement because if I hadn’t had that opportunity
to live the first six or seven years of my life Off the land, with my parents
living the traditional way of life. I don’t think I would have survived what
happened to me, afterwards you probably know now that I was taken away as well.
I’m a survivor of the residential school system, and I spent ten years in
residential school. Like most of my, my, sisters and mothers. So, I think, the
land, and the culture that came with it, the language that came with it, the way
of life that came with it, is what saved my life today. So, from the, from the
tent In a very cold October morning in 1961 or 62, to becoming a member of
Parliament. I can, I can attest to the fact that there was a constant threat of
injustice, there was a constant threat of violations Have my rights and the
fundamental rights of my people, through out those years, even to this day. And
However, grave those injustices, however violent Those violations have been, to my
people, to me as an ingivid-, individual, but to my people collectively. I always
attempted over the years to try to bring people back together, cuz that’s where we
a-, we all belong, and, and Willie In his, speech, spoke about the, the U.N.
declaration being, calling upon us to work together. It so happens that working
together is, the The political slogan of the NDP. That’s the extent of my
political today. I won’t go any further. But throughout my life and throughout the
30 years being in this business, my objective, my goal as a person. On behalf
of my peoples bring people together in negotiating agreements in working for 23
years in the discussions and negotiations for the U.N. Declaration. even to this
day as a, a Member of Parliament maybe you know maybe you don’t know but As
members of Parliament we have the right to submit and table private member bills.
And my first private members bill that I tabled in Parliament, in January of this
year, was to make sure that all legislation that went through Parliament,
the Parliament of Canada Is in accordance or in compliance with the UN declaration
and the rights of indigenous peoples because I truly believe that it is the
path to reconciliation for this country, and I almost envy people like Willy
Longchild and the rest of the commissioners. because, they sit on a, on
a commission. That is in my mind, while being an institution, it should be an
institution, it should be the institution, of that very new beginning
that Steven Harper talked about in, in 2008, five year, five years ago. Because
that’s where we need to go as peoples in this country. I, I’ll come back with some
concrete examples about how to achieve that and at least in my view. there are
some examples that I can, I can talk about, that I can think about throughout
the 30 years of working with the Grand Council of the Cree in particular but
with aboriginal peoples in general. I’d like to begin my looking at Article 43.
the moderator Craig Benjamin mentioned that these are minimum standards. But
it’s important to note. It’s on page 38. It’s important to note. That it’s the
minimum standards for the survival, digity, and well being of indigenous
peoples and you’ve heard witness today form surviviors. You’ve herad form Romeo
and Willy and you’ll hear from and others it’s not just about survival It’s about
well being because everyone in Canada as peoples or as individuals, should have
well being. So, when you’re interpretting any provision of the declaration, you
should look at it in terms of. Is this interpretation, let’s say if a governemnt
gives an interpretation, is it achieving well being? And if it isn’t, then it’s
outside of what the declaration was intended for. Now, just as a point, you
never look at any single provision in the declaration in isolation. You can’t
interpret it in isolation. You should read it in the context of the whole
declaration and also international law as a whole. And then you can also bring in
domestic law or domestic arguments. Because all of it should fit together.
>>The international human rights standard here served to reinforce domestic law in
Canada. And, the last thing I’ll say is just as a side point, they always kid me
about this, but you should really number your preambular paragraph.
>>There are 24 of them, and if you don’t number them, it’s hard to have a
conversation. For instance, preambular paragraph 7 is what I wanna refer to, and
that’s on page 12. And once you have the pp1-24 you’ll get there very quickly, and
you’ll get to know it. I just want to read the beginning, it says recognizing
the urgent need to respect, and protect the inherent rights of indigenous
peoples. The rights are inherent, human rights are inherent. what we’re trying to
do with the deceleration. Is first of all governments and others have to recognize
that there is an urgency. It doesn’t make sense that in 2013, the human rights of
indigenous peoples are not recognized and protected. So with that type of context
we’ll discuss the UN declaration. Thanks. >>for a moment Paul. let me ask you. You,
you said that we have to understand how, not only does each article in the
declaration fit with the other articles, but the declaration fits together with
the larger body of international law, and it fits together with domestic law in
Canada. The federal government inevitably, in talking about the
declration, claims the declaration has no legal effect in Canada. That it is solely
and strictly aspirational. Quite clearly you’re saying something else. What’s the
argument? What’s the rationale for saying that this instrument is, actually has
legal effect in Canada. >>Well, the declaration was adopted as this
booklet shows, as an To a General Assembly resolution and usually General
Assembly resolutions are not binding but, the declaration may not be binding in the
same way as treaties, but it does have diverse legal affects, and for example in
Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada recognizes back 1987 and since then
repeatedly that declarations and other international human rights instruments
may be used, well, actually said it more strongly, they are relevant, I’m quoting
now, and persausive sources. For interpreting domestic human rights in
Canada. That’s how strong it is. And the, there was a child and family welfare case
that later perhaps it’ll come up some more. But the Federal Court of Canada. It
confirmed explicitly in its ruling that you can use the UN Declaration. And in
that case they also referred to international treaties like the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. You can use them to interpret domestic
law in Canada. And then we were in, in Geneva in February 2012. And Canada was
addressing the UN Committee on the elimination of racial discrimination. And
Canada stated to them, they basically conceded cuz we had put a lot of pressure
on them, that not only can you use the UN declaration to interpret domestic law in
Canada. But you can also do it for the constitution. And so that is huge in
terms of potential legal effects, because you have section 35 for example, which
deals with the protection of Aboriginal and treaty rights. Thanks.
>>Thank you Paul. And maybe just to, to follow up on that a bit with Romeo
because you referred to your private members bill already to, you know, give
the declaration affect in parliament. How do we overcome this situation where we
have on the one hand. A court’s accepting the relevance of international standards
such as the, the Declaration, but a government bringing forward legislation
with profound impacts on the rights of indigenous peoples and asserting that the
Declaration is in fact other standards of, of human rights protection for
indigenous peoples are, are irrelevant. Well I, I think it’s worth mentioning
first of all on with respect to, Canada’s attitude in regards to Aboriginal rights
and treaty rights in this country has been lamentable for many,many years, and
it continues to be, that way. let’s not forget that Canada spends over 300
billion dollars fighting Aboriginal treaty rights in this country, even
though most of these rights have already been affirmed by the courts themselves.
So, we’re, we’re being put, as Aboriginal peoples, in constant Adversary roles with
the government of Canada, whenever, whenever it comes to Aboriginal rights
and treaty rights in this country. But I always say, it doesn’t have to be that
way. It doesn’t have to be that way. first, first and foremost there needs to
be a change of attitude. by the governments vis-a-vis aboriginal treaty
rights in this country and, and our human, international, human rights. the
other, the other aspect to, to all of this is of course, that there are other
measures that I would like to take before Before I’m done with the Parliament of
Canada and one of them is perhaps another private member’s bill to, to amend
Section 4.1 Paragraph 1 of the Department of Justice Act to vet, in order to vet
legislative proposals. Against Section 35 of the Constitution. but to make sure
that any legislation that’s being contemplated and proposed by, by
government is in compliance with Section 35 of the, of the, of the Constitution.
That is the. we, I notice since I got to parliament 2 years ago, most of the
legislation that has been proposed by the Government, by the Harper Government, did
not go through that process. most of the legislation being proposed by. And the
Harper government has been opposed by First Nations in this country, because
there is not sufficient consultation accommodation. because because those,
those are corresponding duties. You have a duty to consult and accommodate
according to the concerns that were expressed in that consultation. If
there’s no meaningful consultation If there is not intent to accommodate,
accommodate the concerns of our express consultations then that, that duty is
meaningless. So, the, we need to have measures in this country that will, that
will take that direction and, and the other aspect that I just want to mention
quickly with. And disregard this, the whole notion of relationships. That
should always be the number one item on the agenda between people as their
relations to relationships. that is not happening. There are very simple,
straightforward principles under the, under the UN doctration and another
agreements that. at least the Cree have signed cooperation, partnership, mutual
respect. I was before a parliamentary committee in Quebec City in 1992 when I
was deputy grand chief of the grand council of Cree and we were fighting yet
another hydroelectric developing in our territory And I told the minister in
parliamentary committee you know what? If your government had come to the Cree and
said here’s a project. We want to develop this project. What do you think? Is there
a possibility of an agreement? The story of the Great Wall project would have been
very different. That had been the case, but it was not. It was the same old
attitude of disregard for the fundamental rights of the aboriginal peoples and, and
and I think when the free pardon informed consent that Willy talked about is he
correct characterized us and the right to say yes. Well, most of time with all the
projects in this country that, that have an impact on Aboriginal rights, we don’t
even get the opportunity to say yes or no. It’s just rammed through with
development. And that’s, that’s been a problem. There’s also that relationship
that is been broken in this country. >>To follow up with you on, on that one of
the other things that Dr. , or said that, that stuck in my mind was, that we talk
about truth and reconciliation, but there’s, there’s steps in between. and in
between the, the two there has to be healing and there has to be, to be
justice. Do you think these, these core principles in, in the Declaration of
>>The, the principles on the relationships, on the collaboration of consultation of
obtaining concent, are these part of, of taking those steps, of healing injustice?
yeah, Romeo . >>Me again? definitely, definitely because
You would have a very different relationship with aboriginal peoples in
this country if that mutual respect was there. partnership for me, what it means
is that governments that know most of the time that projects have impacts on
aboriginal rights or treaty rights in this country just decided to go ahead
unilaterally without even consulting most of the time. So that’s not partnership.
And when the Cree were on the forrestry case, we had this huge forrestry case,
and James spake as the 27th Forgery companies that had license in Northern
Quebec. and then December 20 at December 2000, December 20, 2000, yeah. the
Sparrow Court in Quebec came down with this, with the decision that the
provision the provisions of the Quebec Forestry Act were incompatible with the.
the terms of the James Bay northern Quebec agreement. That meant the, an
entire forestry industry, was at stake. That meant 18 thousand jobs in northern
Quebec were at stake, with that decision. And it took that, for the government of
Quebec to realize, oh, oops, I have to talk to these people. And, and when
Premier Landry, who was premier of Quebec at that time, came to us, said, okay,
let’s sit down and, and settle this forestry case. We said no. We said, no,
we will take this opportunity to settle our relations. And that new relationship
agreement that we signed in 2002 with Quebec brought about the mutual respect
and cooperation since then, 2002, and it’s been going well since then. There’s,
there, you will not find under James Bay and Northern Quebec agreement, any
provision that deals with consent of creed /g, for development. But there is
no project. That will go ahead and create territory and the government and
developer, developers know, that there is no project possible without the
participation, partnership and consent of the Cree. That’s, that’s how it should
be, that’s real partnership. Just a, a, as a, as a, quick information, between
1975 when the Crees signed the James Bay and north Quebec agreement To 2002 when
they resigned the new relationship agreement, the grand chief and premier of
Quebec, between ’75 and 2002, met about seven, eight times during that period of
time. Since 2002 to this day, they meet about three or four times a year. Now
that’s what the relationship should be all about. At, at the same time, as
positive and encouraging as that is, what we hear quite often is government’s
asserting that they need to act against the rights of indigenous peoples. As you
said, to, to, spend all that money, all those resources to fight against the
rights of indigenous peoples, supposedly in the interest of non-indigenous
peoples. And, and , and I think that we were talking Jennifer earlier about,
about bearing witness. Part of that to, I think has to be the, the role that
non-indigenous organizations, community groups, individuals have to play in
standing up just to say that the, the interest of, of non-indigenous peoples
can’t be equated with an attack on the rights of indigenous peoples. Absolutely.
I mean, I think that when, when, and it is about relationships, and, and that is
also what reconciliation about. And one of the things that happened is when we
had the apology in the House of Commons, and, and so, the apology was the act of
saying sorry. But an apology is more than saying sorry. And an apology is about a
commitment to change. And what, and, and, and reconciliation means that we have to
see a commitment to change. It doesn’t mean that we forgive and forget. And so,
as it has already been said today, we have to re-conceptualize our
relationships, and as Romeo said You know, the, the, for, for the a previous
relationship not working. But in many parts of the country, that’s still the
status quo. That, that’s not a useful relationship, and it isn’t just about the
government, it’s also, there is a role for non indigenous. whether it’s NGOs,
whether it’s faith-based groups, whether it’s community groups or whether it’s
within academic institutions, there’s a rule to say. You know, that’s not
acceptable. You know, and as our moderator this morning, he finished the
morning remarks saying that he was proud to be a Canadian. But he, but he wasn’t
proud of this peace. And you know, we have, we have to have a situation in
Canada where that, that we have, we have reframed our relationship. And I think
that’s what the Declaration why the Declaration is such a good tool is
because the Declaration is about a blueprint for change. And we know. And,
and we all heard this morning from the survivors. We know that the existing the
existing situation in this country is not workable. And it, you know, all of you
that were here this morning, you know that the conditions that led to, to those
stories is not a part of a county that you want to be a citizen of. So then it’s
not enough to just say well, well, well, well I wish I had wrote that, no we have
to say okay, so what do we need to change? How do we need to move forward in
a different direction? And this is one of the reasons where we feel the declaration
is such an important tool, because the deceleration is giving us the, the steps
towards that, and working on implementing the deceleration is giving steps to move
that relationship. And to reconceptualize that relationship. And, and I think, you
know we had a meeting recently with a government body who at the end of it they
said, well yes, but you know what I think it’s too difficult. and, that’s the wrong
answer. It is difficult. I mean, we’re not saying that implementation of the
declaration is just something that we can sit down and half a panel about and then
boom, tomorrow we’re all on our way. It will be, but, that, but too bad. you
know, the Provence of Ontario employs 1,000 lawyers. Well there are enough
smart people that could sit down and work on it, it might be difficult, but how do
we do it. And so, you know, and as Romeo was saying, the amount of funds the
governemnt puts towards fighting Aboriginal rights One of our colleagues
did a very innocuous search to discover that the Department of Justice has on its
pay role, the federal Department of Justice, has on its pay role, 700 lawyers
who are working to oppose indigenous rights in this country. How is that
acceptable? How can any of us think that that’s an acceptable way for our tax
dollars to be spent? It isn’t acceptable. So, that engagement in changing the
actual framework of, of how we approach all of these issues, is everyone’s
responsibility. >>Earlier this morning, and we, we’ve been
given as part of the frame for our discussion, in fact this is the, the
250th anniversary of the royal proclamation. And one of the things that
was talked about this morning and Dr. Malloy talked about this, is we have a, a
history of, of treaty relationships, relations between, between nations that
set up a relationship that in name is a, is that kind of relationship of, of, of
partnership, of, of, of, of collaboration. But what we’ve also heard
is, we have had an immediate history of violation of those, those, those very
treaties, of those, those promised relationships and the issue seems to come
down, largely,one of power. The, the government could get away with violating
those relationships. Ellen, I mean, you, you, you began by talking about the, the,
the profound trauma, the harm Done and continue to be done by, by, by colonial
mentalities, colonial programs, policies. It does it on a pragmatic practical
level. Thus, the declaration alter that power relationship anyway.
>>I think in theory, it does. In reality it’s not, because it’s not. Being
implemented, and one of the things that I think is, is really important to note is
what Paul said, is that you don’t take the declaration in isolation. So if I
look at some of the, the articles that talk about forced assimilation and
destruction of culture And the right for you know, just from like the rights of a
child, the right of the child to be, to have an education in, in their own
language. one thing that we see very much in our communities is decrease in funding
to education. And almost no funding, at least, recurring funding for language and
culture. It’s not enough to say that you’re sorry. When it comes to saying,
well, we did this, this, and this to your people and these were the effects on your
people. And do nothing. And in the meantime, we’re struggling. It’s almost
as if they’re sabotaging their own apology Because as time progresses we are
losing those speakers. We are losing those people with the traditional
knowledge. And it’s not enough to record them. Because what you have to do is
like, like any apprenticeship or mentorship, you have to be guided. You
have to be taught. You have to. When you speak a language especially an indigenous
language, it’s a way of thinking it’s a way it’s your cosmos vision it’s your
perspective on the world. And, and what we see today is everything going against
it. And it always brings me back to, to Jean Chretien And Pierre Elliott Trudeau,
the late prime minister of Canada, and the, the 1969 white paper policy when
they said when you no longer speak your language, or practice your culture, you
will have become assimiliated. And, and yes you know, I’m the, I’m, I won’t talk
about me because I’m not a good example of this, but Romeo is.>>So you, you look
indigenous, right? I come from a long line of turtle clan people, so regardless
of what anyone says, I have a clan. But, you look indigenous, and I see this from
people who are adopted and they say, look, I look in the mirror and I see an
indigenous person. I see a native person. But when I go with other indigenous
people, I don’t, I can’t relate to them. I don’t feel it. I don’t know what it’s
like. And, and so the declaration for me, it takes all those things that were
attacked by colonization, language, culture, identity, the family unit. Our
relationship to the land. Our culture. Our, our ceremonies. Our spirituality.
our, our health. Our physical health which rely on the land. We rely on the
medicines for, for it. It takes all that and encompasses it. And then when we look
at, say, the or the, and, and our customary laws and we use them together
we Say, you know, it’s almost like, finally the White people got it. They
understood that you cannot base your identity, basically, based on a picture
in a passport. It’s about a way of life. It’s about a way of thinking and it’s
about upholding your obligations. You know, our ancestors had a tougher life
than we did. They went through and I’ll, I know in my community the smallpox
epidemic was something that was inflicted intentionally. We had 150 children who
went to Shingwauk Indian Residential School, Industrial school. It was an
industrial school. Six who never came back. One who was 12 years old who died
at childbirth. She never came back. And it, it to me it’s about. What kind of
legacy do you want to leave to present and future generations? What kind of
stories do you want them to tell about you? About your people in 2013, and your
attempts to bring about peace? And, and, to me that’s, that’s part of what this
declaration stand for, and that’s why it’s, it’s, you know, I’m, I’m so
thankful to be sitting in this panel with these three people and, and yourself,
because you get it. You understand that justice doesn’t just mean affair in
equitable settlement. Just as the recognition as Willie said of the truth.
Just as the recognition that as Indigeneous people, we are nothing
without our land. We are nothing without our languages and culture. We are self
determining people. We are not minorities. We don’t have the same
history as, as people who come from other continents. We are the original people of
this land, our oral stories say we come from this land, we do not come from
China, we do not come from Russia, perhaps some people you know they cross
the Bering Strait, but the traffic didn’t say one way only. Our people
>>Tell us our DNA is from the Americas, Turtle Island. And those are the kinds of
stories that I think the declaration will allow us to do when we take over control
of our education. Paul >>Is to follow up on what Alan said. Alan
mentioned that the declaration isn’t being implemented. And I think you meant
by the, federal and provincial and possibly territorial governments. The
compelling reason why this declaration has to be implemented, is that it’s based
on the, precisly the same principles, and values, that Canada has right now, and
that are also in the international Legal system. And Chief Wilton Littlechild read
out earlier, Article 46 3. And he mentioned the principles of justice.
Democracy, respect for human rights, equality, non-discrimination, good
governance, and good faith. These are Canadian principles and values already.
So, why would any government in Canada, refuse to apply them, to indigenous
peoples. And it is impossible to ever achieve reconciliation if you do not
respect and protect human rights of indigenous peoples. It is also impossible
to claim that there is good governance, as mentioned in article forty-six three,
without respecting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples, and the
Supreme Court of Canada has an important principle that the crown has a
constitutional duty to uphold. The honor of the crown well you could never uphold
the honor of the crown if you’re not respecting the human rigths of indigenous
peopels.>>Eh, I noticed that you carefully distinguished between that
Federal, provincial, territorial governments may not be implementing, and
I think the other part of that, of course, is that there is implementation
going, going ahead at other levels, other, other ways of implementing. And in
fact, I think, Ellen, you have a, a, a extradorinary example of implementation
in the, in the work that that does, is doing. through the help of Jennifer’s
organization and , we undertook the enormous task of translating the UN
declaration into , which is what you know as Mohawk language. And it was three
months. Of negotiating back and forth with the translator and my boss who also
translated and edited. And the things within, there’s concepts within the
declaration which we, in order for us as indigeneous people we, it’s important for
us to put it in our language becuase the concepts sometimes do not quite jive with
our customary. Laws. They’re similar, but because like for us, for , 80% of our
language is verbs. We have to describe something. So we describe something
that’s a concept that might be like human rights. How do you say, how do you say
human rights? You know? And what does that mean? Because
>>Yes, we have rights but we have obligations. so, it took three months to,
to make this wonderful document. And we have a limited printing of it. And I, I
welcome the first whoever people to. >>>>Come up here and, and, and get them, get,
get themselves a copy. But I’ll say that very slowly because if you, if you read
it I don’t know if the cameras can get it. And that actually means United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. So it’s it’s so, it’s
something I’m very honored and proud to have been part of. I typed it that’s all
I did. I typed it but if you know the standardization of Mohawk is like many
other indigenous languages where, where oral traditions and you have these
glottals and you have these up stresses and down stresses and lengths and but I
come from the oldest. I’m proud to see that all the community that exists today,
, which existed long before Europeans arrived, our communities mentioned in the
[FOREIGN, condolence rite of the chief. We were the first community to accept and
we have the oldest dialect. And we’re not saying we have the right dialect, All the
other communities. But we have the oldest dialect. So I’ve been very proud to have
been part of this. To thank. That’s why it’s so important to have the NGOs
participate in the implementation of the declaration because they support these
kinds of activities. So thank you.>>And Ellen already mentioned, that the Quakers
were, were an organization that helped support, this translation but, but
Jennifer I was wondering if, if you some other examples that you could share of,
of practical implementation of the declaration.>>yeah I, I think in terms
of implementation >>the first step of implementation is that
people have to know it. And indigenous leaders didn’t travel from around the
world to go to the UN for 20 years so the document can sit in the library in
Geneva. and so, one of the first things that we did all of a Thus we’re working
in a coalition of both indigenous and non-indigenous partners and one of the
first things that coalition did was to produce the booklet which you all have
here today I know, because my aide made sure that you all had it here today. And
The organization that produce around the back, you’ll see and we, when we first
produce it, the original printing we did 100,000 copies, which we distributed it
very quickly. And so then we did a second quickly which of another 20,000 copies.
Which is almost completely distributed and we’re doing a third. Printing this
year of these booklets. And one of the things about, I mean, it’s a very simple,
active implementation, but it makes the instrument well known. And in fact, I had
a call from someone at the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and she called me up
and she said you know, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is
the best known A human rights instrument in Canada. And it’s because of those
booklets. everyone has those booklets. And so it, that’s, it’s a very simple act
of implementation. But it’s also something because implementation happens
on so many levels. And some of them are very straightforward like that. And, and
others obviously are more complicated. But in terms of awareness raising, it’s
one of the things that our organizations jointly have worked on, is to raise
awareness around the declaration, raise awareness about why it’s important and
what it means. And then we had some photocopies here today of some resources
And I know that, so many, not everyone has them. They are also on the website
that York set up for this symposium. All of those documents are on that website,
so that you can access them if you didn’t get a paper copy, but there’s various
resources that we’ve tried to develop in terms of, to help raise awareness around
the declaration. And I think one of the things that I’m gonna let Paul and Romeo
speak about political and legal implementation, but a piece of
implementation that we all work a lot on is what I will call social
implementation. And social implementaion is about making sure that it’s used. And
being used is part of implementation. we were involved several years ago in a
symposium where the United Nations special repetoire on the rights of
indigenous peoples wanted to know when he visited a member state and he did a study
and he came up with recommendations to that member state, he wanted to know were
those recommendations being implemented. And what came out of that work was that
in fact the implementations don’t come from governments, implementations, it
comes from the ground. And so in fact, although there is implementation to be
done at all levels, implementation has to be done on the ground, and it has to be
done at all kinds of levels. And I would say that, you know holding symposiums
like this, is a piece of implementation, because is, that is also about awareness
reason. It can be implemented in education system. One of the things that
we’ve always talked about is that the deceleration has to be taught. As we were
talking this morning, about. That history of the Indian residential schools, it
needs to be in our education system. And the declaration needs to be in our
education system. a good example of that is, after the declaration was adopted and
we produced these booklets, we were contacted by the province of New
Brunswick. the Ministry of Education, and they ordered enough booklets, so that
every student going into High School, that was taking law, would get a copy of
the deceleration. So it can easily be brought into educational systems. there
are child friendly versions, so that it can also be used. with children at a
younger age group in terms of that. there’s we have, all of us participated
in various types of workshops around. Awareness raising around the declaration,
how you can use the declaration. Some of those workshops have been at the
community level. Paul and I have been. twice, and this summer for the third time
to Ellen’s community. To do that, yeah, that type of work at the community level.
but also we’ve done those types of workshops with human rights commissions.
Which is also implementation, and you know particularly here in Ontario, we
know that Ontario Human Rights Commission has put a lot support behind the
deceleration. Takes that very seriously, as well as the Canadian Human Rights
Commission. So there’s lot of ways that that type of implementation where it’s
being used, where it’s being upheld, that can happen and, and we are not dependent
on good will of governments to see that happen. The more that a human rights
instrument is referenced and used the more it is engrained in, in how we carry
forward our work, and that makes the declaration real, and that makes the
declaration continue to grow. So I, I’ll leave it to these two to talk about those
other elements of implementation. >>Yep, I’ll leave to Paul to, to address
the how the courts and other bodies have embraced the, the UN declaration but let
me talk a bit about how, I would like to see the declaration being implemented in
Canada from a local prospective and through the Parliament of Canada. as I
mentioned just a while ago I did submit the private members bill. The number of
the bill is C-469 and the bill will be up for debate sometime in 2014. you know
there’s, there are 300 members in Parliament in Canada and there’s a draw
At every legislature there’s a draw where, you know, you get to be the first
or the second or 308th to submit to have your bill debated. But I think I was
somewhere around 197. So my bill will be debated in sometime, 2014 because of
that. I also wanna, I wanna tell you that the One of the things that Jack Layton
asked us when we, when we first got, when I got elected in 2011. And met with this
caucus for the first time. He asked us two things, the 101 members of the NDP
that were elected, he said, I want us to be a forceful party of the opposition.
But I also wanna be want us to be the party of proposition. So that, that’s the
idea behind some of the private member bills that we have. before Parliament
right now. There’s also private member bill that will allow. Online petitions to
be, to be tabled in parliament because, right now under the ru, present rules,
online petitions cannot be tabled in parliament. They have to be signed
petitions so, there’s a private member’s bill from the NDP member Phil Dunlay I
believe from BC that that will be also debated, and that would allow online
petitions. to be accepted in the, the Parliament of Canada. I believe that the
online petition for the U.N. Declaration and my private member’s bill is already
on the MDP website so you can go, go and check and sign on if you, if you approve
of this legislative initiative that I, that I That I started in the House of
Commons. Those were the type of things I wanted to see achieved through my
efforts. I know that a lot of times we seem to think Aboriginal issues in this
country are very difficult, are very complex perhaps. Perhaps but like I said,
at the outset, it doesn’t have to be that way. We, they, they are gonna be complex
and difficult only, if we choose if we choose that that they be so. Only because
as long if, if, if Aboriginals in this country become a priority for, for
governement, I intend to insist on that throughout my present mandate. Another
one in 2015, I intend to insist that. >>Aboriginal issues have become a priority
for, for the government. Because that’s the missing piece of this wonderful
puzzle that, that we call Canada. >>Well, there’s a domestic element and then
there’s an international element. Element. Right now, indigenous
governments, their institutions, indigenous peoples in general, can use
the UN declaration for all their work. Whether it’s policy making, decision
making, law making, their free to use it to interpret rights and related state
obligations. Jennifer mentioned the human rights bodies. Across Canada, there are
federal, provincial, territorial human rights commissions. They can all use it
within their mandate. So if they get a case relating to indigenous peoples, they
can bring in the UN Declaration. Now Federally Internationally the U.N.
offices of high commisiioner for human rights. The high commisioner’s the
highest level person dealing with human rights in the international system. She
has said this is a priority in her work, and it is the frame work
>>For which she deals or addresses indigenous rights. The UN Treaty bodies
have the mandate to interpret whatever treaty they’re responsible for. So for
example, the Human Rights Committee interprets International Covenant on
civil and political rights Well when Canada, who has ratified these various
treaties, goes before these bodies these bodies can turn to Canada. And Canada has
their report every 4 or 5 years to each of these bodies. And these bodies can
say, what are you doing with these concerns or violations of indigenous
people? And have you used the UN Declaration? And for instance, the
committee on the elimination of racial discrimination turned to the United
States while they were still opposing the UN Declaration, while they had voted
against it, and said you should be using the UN Declaration in terms of your
obligations under this convention. So there’s no way that Canada can escape
from it. And the other thing to remember, is that 1993, the World Conference on
Human Rights, the Former Secretary General said that human rights is the
common language of humanity. And what he meant is, you have thousands of different
cultures, not only amongst indigenous peoples, but also amongst all peoples in
the world. And how are you going to deal with, common issues and problems? How are
you going to resolve them? How are you gonna work together through cooperation
and solidarity? Well, human rights is the common language, so there’s just no way
that Canada, in this case the Federal Government, can continue to try and not
acknowledge that indigenous people’s collective rights are human rights. It’s
only a matter of time. >>Thank you
>>I just wanted to add one other thing about implementation and a concrete
action. the declaration was adopted by the General Assembly in September of
2007, and right away, grand chief Edward John, who’s gonna be our final presenter
here this afternoon He had said, let’s have symposium and let’s talk about
implementation, let’s talk about, now we have it, what, what are we doing with it.
And so, with, under his leadership, was organized, a three-day symposium that
took place in British Columbia. And out of that symposium came this book, and the
book is Realizing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Triumph, hope and action. And the, the book was, the people who wrote the
chapters in the book had all presented at that symposium. And that symposium itself
is an active implementation, there was 300 people that came for three full days
to learn about, both how the declaration had been developed What the contents of
the declaration are, what does that mean and how can we all engage with it. And so
the, the, the depth of that is embodied in this book, which I know, if you are in
Professor Dawson’s class, one of he’s classes he teaches this book. and also we
do have some copies it here. I know that there were some people that got it at
lunch time. But if there’s other people who are interested. I have some copies,
at the end you can see me. And, you would be under the very good fortune of being
able to get almost everyone who wrote in this book is in this room. and you can go
on and get free autographs. So I just wanted to make a plug for that piece, And
also just, to turn it back to Craig for a minute. In terms of implementation and
when we look at implementation, and one of the things because we know when we
talk about implementation, when we talk about reconcilliation, when we know how
many things are going on currently and where indigineous rights are, are being
continued to be assaulted in this country. And of course resource
development projects being a big piece of that. So I’m gonna ask Craig if he would
give us just a minute to discuss about how implementing the declaration. And the
declaration feeds into environmental assessment, impact assessments. And how
that’s feeding into current political climates as well. Yeah, this is, this is
actually my, my passion at the moment. Because people know that one of the, the
catalyst out at more last year was that aspect of the federal omnibus
legislation. They really gutted environmental impact assessment in
Canada. And greatly reduced the likelihood that major resource
development projects will be subject to an open public.
>>environmental impact assessment with a independent panel. Nonetheless, the
federal government continues to point to the environmental impact assessment
process as the crucial, in fact, pretty much the only example it can give of a
formal mechanism by which it is in any way Responding to the constitutionally
protected and internationally protected rights of indigenous people. So we ask
about how are you concrete in fulfilling your, your duty to consult and
accommodate? They’ll say well, we have the environmental impact assessment
process. The process is deeply flawed from that point of view because. All it
can do. For one thing, indigenous peoples typically do not have any say, any input
into how the process is structured and, and carried out, but also the process
only results in a recommendation, which government can, can choose to act on or
ignore. None the less those recommendations do have considerable, you
know public political weight, when the, when those rare exceptions, when a case
does go to a full open independent panel. We know that they can be a real lightning
rod for public attention, so they are important moments. We’ve seen this. With
a number of hearings. Amnesty International, will be making a formal
presentation to review in about a month’s time, of the New Prosperity, proposed New
Prosperity gold and copper mine on national territory and this in something
we’ll increasingly look at. Because, precisely because, international human
rights standards brought into the mix can be so powerful. assessments curating to
federal legislation. they’re essentially balanced, you know. Their tempting to, to
weigh the balance of the potential benefits of a project versus the
potential harm. The potential harm include impacts on indigenous peoples’
culture, indigenous peoples’ use of the land. If we bring into that mix,
international human rights standards. How you weigh that balance changes
considerably because international human rights standards are so very, very clear
about the high standard of precaution that has to be applied whenever you’re
considering something that could impact on that crucial relationship that Roméo
began by talking about, of indigenous peoples to the land. That the importance
of protecting that, the dire consequences of breaking that relationship And the
fact that we have, historically, already pushed Indigenous peoples to the edge by
history of unresolved dispossessions and actions, like the residential school
program, that served to erode that relationship. So we think that bringing
international framework in can help strike a much more appropriate assessment
of, of the risk. You see the system is not what is should be. Because indigenous
peoples are not genuinely full participants. And the decision is still
ends up being in the hand of in the hands of the government that never actually
engages with those realities. But at least the public record, the truth
telling can be improved. And that moment of public pressure can also be also be
strengthened. So thank you for asking that Jennifer. I think what we want to do
at this point is open the discussion up to all of you. If the hand mikes are
ready to go I will try to keep a speaking order. And I see one person already.
Here, we’ll ask, I’ve been asked by the panelist to enforce this rigorously.
We’ll l ask people to make quite short comments and to focus on the topic of the
implementation of the declaration And its relationship to the goal of
reconciliation and how we have to get there. So there was a third row, down
here on this side. If we just start. >>so my question goes to Any of the
panelists vision on implementation by the courts in terms of Section 35
jurisprudence? Cuz to date, the courts in looking at Section 35 and interpreting it
have been noticeably silent about saying anything with respect to. At least
anything much in terms of the relationship between Aboriginal and
treaty rights, as that term is understood in Canada, and human rights. So I just
throw that question out to any of you who want to answer it.>>I see another
panelist pointing to Paul at the end. Paul, would you clarify for me, for
people who are not familiar with what section 35 is? Well section 35-1 says
that the aboriginal peoples of Canada, which include as they put it Indians,
Inuit, and Matee peoples. it says that the aboriginal the existing Aboriginal
and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, are recognized and
affirmed, so the question is, what does that include and how do you interpret it?
And Wendy is right, that the court has never taken a Human rights based
approach. What they thought Was, well we have this provision. There’s, we have to
put some principles in it. So they basically, and this court is a very
respected court, the Supreme Court of Canada basically made up some principles
that they thought fit with Canada and fit with. The historical context. The problem
is, is some of the principles do not conform to what has been developed in
international human rights law. So, what you have right now is the Supreme Court
sometimes going in this direction, and international human rights law going in
that direction. And I think, when Chief Ed John will speak of a case, that’s
coming up November 7th, and appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, and this whole
issue that Wendy just raised, will come up. My, my own belief is that when it
says aboriginal, and treaty rights. I believe that that includes all the rights
that are in the declaration. Because when an aboriginal people, or individual, goes
before any human rights body internationally or regionally, such as
the Inter-American system or in the African system Their rights are always
addressed under the human rights system. And they’ll say, oh your in that bridge
and all people from Canada. Well they still apply human rights. There is no
difference in the term between aboriginal peoples and indigenous peoples. There’s
no difference in terms of international human rights law between aboriginal
rights and indigenous rights. So, that’s my interpret, interpretation. They’ll
have to go there. And I think that Grand Chief Ed John will talk a little about
that important case coming up. >>There was a, a question, I think, second
row from the front here. >>first of all, I wanted to appreciate and
thank Ellen and Romeo for speaking the regional languages of this land. It was
so fluent, it was musical. Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Second of
all the comment by Ellen, about the culture of shame. This is something that
in civil war, I mean, civil what was that? I forgot. civil activities of
1960’s in USA. the black people were also Into that position. What they did is came
with a counter offer a black is beautiful. When they said black is
beautiful that was actually counter offer, or encouragement. The black people
started to believe in themselves. They fought, it was a war against. The culture
of shame. You especially, Alvin, because I saw you talking with so much feeling,
have you done anything like that? I mean I’m sure that Jennifer will be supporting
you if you come up with such logos, you know, with such slogans, which are
beautiful and productive. Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever done
anything on that? I, I never thought of making a bumper sticker with something to
do with my identity. Like I mean Black is Beautiful is, is, it goes you know you
have two b’s going together. So, we cant even agree upon if whether we’re native.
Aboriginal, indigenous, , you know I, I was raised to be proud of who I am, be
and, and I, you know I, I treasure those teachings. And it’s trying to get that to
the youth to be proud of who they are, because what they see is disfunction and
arguing, and, and blah blah blah. >>it’s something I think we’d have to maybe
consult with our people on, what kind of bumper sticker we’d like to see. I mean,
for, for a lack of anything else, I mean there’s, there’s, I don’t know more, kind
of thing that, that’s reuniting both indigenous people and you know, the
average Canadian. you know I, I do appreciate your, your comment. But you
know that they, the depths of harm that the residential school did to the psyche
It, it, it goes very, very deep and, you know, I, I think for I, a lot of people
here who, who, you know, who didn’t go to residential school, but felt the impact
of residential school, will agree that, and, and psychologists will agree. That
when you’re, when you’re on this road to healing, it’s like the onion. The onion,
there’s one layer that falls off, another layer that falls off. so, it’s not easy
to come up with a word that would describe how beautiful and how rich.
>>Indigenous peoples cultures are. It’s beautiful, but it’s so much more than
beautiful. You know, for, for something that’s really wonderful or beautiful and
I’m sure if my, my, my teachers would probably say, no there’s another word for
it. But all I could think of is It’s something like that you like something,
it’s really wonderful, it’s beautiful, it’s, you know, there are so many things
in there. And I think, when we look at the, the richness of our culture, we can
say it’s exciting too. I mean, I was listening to, to Romeo talking about his,
his First formative years on the land. It’s exciting. You know, you go canoeing.
You see the water. You see the birds. You wake up with all the things of creation
that the Creator put on there so. Indigenous means something different to
different people but at the end of the day it means you’re a part of Creation.
and I don’t think that people would put that on a bumper sticker, but I’m
sertaintly hoping that the legacy that we leave behind will do away with bumper
stickers and we’ll talk about You know, my DNA is like your DNA, and it goes even
deeper to being a woman. You know, you have to be slim, beautiful, wear a
certain kind of clothes and so the complexity of global society impacting
indigenous identity. >>is, is so vast, but I like your idea. And
I, I will definitely think on it. Thank you.
>>and, I know that, there are, there are a couple toward the, the back, and I, I
see, see one person to the right. Was there somebody earlier that I am missing
now? >>No.
>>my question is kind of about the actual, the Texas Declaration. And I know that
its had a long history in order to get together, actually, into the UN.
>>But I’m just looking through it now and article 46 seems to stick out as being I
guess a product of the struggle, because it, it says nothing in this declaration
may be construed as authorizing or encouraging action which would dismember
or impair the territorial integrity or political unity of sorrow and Independent
states. And I was wondering how that interferes with, for example articles
three, four, and five, about the right to self-determination and whether
governments could possible use that against indigenous rights. Is that an
issue, or have you thought about it? That’s an excellent question I think any
of the other panelists could weigh in. I don’t know if Romeo, if you wanted to
take that.>>I can start, I’m sure Paul will be able to complete. This article
came about because of the concerns There were ways, exactly, about the territorial
integrity of the memeber states in our discussions in particular with respect to
the right of self determination that we find under Article three. And Paul can
elaborate on this, international law. Already provides for those concerns and
that the article in question, 46, that you just quoted was meant to reflect the
actual state of international law to respond to the concerns that certain
member states had with respect to that right of self determination of indigenous
peoples. And their territorial integrity. That’s one thing. The other aspect that
is essential to mention here is the fact that again we need to read the UN
declaration, not in isolation article by article, but as a whole. all of the other
articles and a lot of the articles talk about collaberation, partnership,
cooperation, mutual respect and so on and so forth and as well as international
human right in general so we can not just take Article Three, for instance. The
right to self-determination. And read it in isolation. because that, that was the
concern that many states at the beginning of the process. That, that’s why it took
so long in the process to get the right of self-determination, without
qualification. to get it accepted and that’s why it took so long to have toward
peoples in, in our discussions. That was a long for many years we had to discuss,
that we insisted that we used the word peoples, with respect to indigenous
peoples, because that was >>Using, using people otherwise would have
been discriminatory towards indigenous peoples. I’ll let Paul complete the
answer. >>Romeo is absolutely right. the, certain
states really wanted it and especially the African states, within the African
continent, there are a lot of conflicts, both within This, existing states and
also between states. And I have to say that Canada, Australia. Especially Canada
and New Zealand were urging the African states to raise problems with the
Declaration. And it did cause an eight-month delay. So, there had to be
some compromises to satisfy the African states. They weren’t the only states that
have that problem. Latin American states, but the Latin American states had been
pretty much on board, most of them. But why it can’t affect, as Romeo said,
anything but reflect existing international law, which has the
principle of territorial integrity. To balance the right of self determination.
Right of self determination is an absolute, human rights are usually not
absolute, except maybe torture or genocide, but usually it’s relative. And
the provisions that safeguard it, for instance article 44 45 sorry, says,
nothing in this declaration may be construed as diminishing the rights
indigenous peoples have now or may acquire in the future. So whatever rights
they had in international law to this declaration could not be changed by any
article here. Secondly, it’s important to we also put in the preamble ’cause we
negotiated these provisions. Again, it’s PP17, it’s on>>No it’s not up, don’t
give page numbers ’cause there’s two different booklets.
>>Oh, two different booklets, okay. Basically what it says is that nothing
this declaration. May be used to deny any people, any peoples, their right to self
determination, excercised in conformity with international law. We argue, we’re
not asking for anything new. These are the inherent rights that all peoples
have, the right to self determination. And so that was put in, as further
assurance. Now, the first preambular paragraph. See, you can’t see it just by
reading it. But it says, guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter at
the United Nations. Now, what are the purposes and principles of the Charter,
that are to guide this? Well one of them is the principal of equal rights and self
determination of peoples, that’s in the charter. So that to helps to reinforce
the right of self determination that you mentioned in article three.
>>Is wanting to, make sure that was, >>>>That, what’s your question?
>>>>Please go ahead. >>I was wondering, how exactly in practice
does the balance work. Like, if you have a, if a people’s have a referendum to
seed from a country, can they do that under International Law? Does this have
any, does this Does this declaration have any effect on it, and because it’s the
right to self determination, up to that point, like up to it seems like you have
rights until you stand up for them. Like it says you have rights but then if you
choose to go that far as to cede from the country or to you know political
solution. And that article forty-six kinda says that states have the right to
territorial integrity, then they’re at odds. So how does that work in practice?
>>We’ll do it the same way again. We gotta understand as well, one, one of the
things we need to understand when we discuss the concept of self-determination
is there are multiple facets to the right of self-determination. Self-determination
doesn’t necessarily only mean to become a country.
>>Are independent. unilateral succession if you refer to the case reference case to
the Supreme Court 1998. again, unilat, unilateral succession is of a, is is a
measure Of last resort and the right of self determination also includes concept
of cooperation for instance tribulations my people decided to have as an exercise
of right of self determination a tribute relationship with both Canada, Quebec and
agreement that’s That’s how we exercise our right to self determination, because
we view that politically that was perhaps the best thing for our people. And so
again the right of self determination has multiple facets. a lot of people
understand that self determination means separation and dismembering of>>Of
member states a, around the world but that, that’s not necessarily the case.
>>I’ll just say that self determination and the principle of territorial
integrity will always be balanced one against the other, and it depends on the
facts and law in each case. And as Romeo mentioned You have to have a very serious
case of human rights violations to take the measure of unilateral susception. And
even then there can be problems if other countries don’t recognize you. So it can
be quite complicated and we’re not going to get into it here. But as Romeo
mentioned Within the state or indigenous peoples are not just domestic actors,
indigenous peoples are also international actors. All these standards that are
being set, and more and more are being set internationally there, its indigenous
peoples representing themselves from all over the world. States could never
represent indigenous peoples there, because states violate those rights, and
states will not put forward, the full positions of indigenous peoples. So, that
is an act of self determination, that’s ongoing, internationally. It’s not just
domestic, but domestic is important too. in resources, the right to resources is
in paragraph two of our Article One of the Covenants, the deals with the right
to self-determination. It is also said that the right of self-determination is a
prerequiste for peoples In terms of the exercise of all other human rights. So
when one reads the UN declaration. And it’s accord, and it wasn’t created by the
declaration. The declaration affirms the right to self-determination, that’s
already in the international human rights covenant.>>For all peoples, but again,
you have to read it in the, with the lens of self-determination, and that brings up
a lot of issues where indigenous peoples have to have control. Thank you.>>I
think that you were about to, there was a question down to the side. Am I right or
wrong? Hi. thanks a lot for the whole day. It’s been really informative very
interesting. I had two questions which can be addressed by anyone. Whatever. The
first question is. If any of you could talk a little bit more about your
experience over time, organizing at the international level, transnationally.
And, you know, and people learn a lot from people from everywhere else in the
world that maybe have a, a variable understanding of indigeneity or Of their
rights so I’m wondering if anyone has any reflections on how their own
understandings have developed in conjunction with sort of with other
people’s understandings. Maybe they aren’t coming from Canada, for example.
my other question was more technical and I don’t know if it’s very useful. But I’m
wondering about. People who have status, or non-status, in, in Canada, how do
people identify that in relation to the declaration being indigenous? How does,
how does that work legally, that people are using this declaration? It might just
be a quesiton of ignorance. I’m not sure. But if anyone would like to address that.
>>Okay, thank you for that. Actually, I mean it’s a good question. Maybe, so the
two questions, maybe we go with the second one is whether the distinction in
Canada between status, non-status if that has any impliocations for understanding
this concept in international law of indigenous people, indigenous persons.
It’s, it’s a good question and it’s, it’s eh, sort have been I would say the bane
of indigenous women’s existence eh, because of the Indian Act. The Indian
Act, they knew that in order to distroy our nations they would go through our
women And so many women have before 1985, when they married a non-indigenous
person, they lost their rights and Indian status. But we have to remember Indian
status is also given to us by the colonial, the colonizer. It’s not, it’s
not us determining who is a member. Of our nation. But in the UN declaration
Article Six, every indigenous individual has the right to a nationality. Included
with, within the right to self-determination also the, that nation
has to, has the right to choose who are its citizens. It gets very complex and,
and very mired in Sometimes, a very much, a colonial way of approaching something
that should be a given. In our customary ways, when you are a citizen of our
Nations. And I’ll talk about the . It’s not just, here’s my red card. It’s, what
am I doing, giving back to the Nation. What am I doing giving back in my
obligations to take of the earth. To take care of all the creations. What’s my part
in building our nations and transmitting that knowledge? As opposed to the
colonial way, which is here’s a card. we’re going to, we’re going to allow you
to have part of your trust fund for your education. I’m not gonna say free
education because that is part of the government propaganda that villifies
Indigenous people to the Canadian public. It’s not free education, it’s our trust
fund money. And with in December 2010, there was Bill C3 or S3, which allowed
the grandchildren of the women who lost status, because they’re like pure-breds.
They were like whether you’re a racehorse, or a dog where you have this
bloodline. And there’s 4 different kinds of ways to obtain status and one is blood
>>And it really, they are, they, they’re all blood quantum. but bills S3 allowed
the indigenous women who married non-indigenous men, their grandchildren
to move up a notch, and their children to move up a notch in regards to having full
status. But what’s this all about anyways? It’s about who is entitles to
live on lands reserved for Indians. And it goes even deeper. It goes into the
land grab. If you have less status Indians and they’re all moving to the
urban areas. Because life is so frickin’ miserable in the communities because of
the dysfunction that was created by band councils, imposed by the Canadian
government. Then you’re not gonna need reserve systems any more, because
everybody’s in the urban areas. Getting all their needs met. Because in the
meantime, what, what’s happening in the communities is they’re shrinking our
budgets, our, our population is growing, and, and so, the term of indigenous
becomes something that is he, you know, it, it, it’s, it’s debated in, in so, on
so many levels. >>And I know you thought you’d get an, a
very simple answer to your question, and I’m sorry I’m not giving you that, but
it’s very complicated and it’s really about, and, and this is what I, what I
wanna say is, in order to implement the Declaration and to have all indigenous
people’s rights fully respected We have to restore the role and the authority and
the equality of indigenous women throughout. Because there are some
nations that have accepted the patriarchal values that came over with
the Mayflower and Columbus. I don’t care what nation you belong to. Indigenous
women played a very important role in the survival of our nations. And what
colonization did, was disgusting, and, you know Canadians need to realize that
this genocide that happened in their country, and if they do not implement
this declaration Indigeneous women will continue to have this marginalization /g.
We have a wonderful project by Kristy Bellcourt called Walking With Our Sisters
to educate the canadian public about our 600 plus murdered and missing aboriginal
women that the RCMP could give two hoots about investigating. That’s what
Indigenous status is all about. Right it’s, it’s about what are you gonna win?
Well you look the latest report came out. How many Indigenous peop whip children
are living in poverty. So tell me that Indian status has benefits . You know I
forget which other question >>She was affect-, I’m sorry. I’ll, I’ll
end it right there. Sorry. >>As a, as a bridge to answering your other
question, I think it’s worth noting as well that, that those kinds of imposed
definitions of who is and is not indigenous, such as the Canadian
government’s imposition of Status non-status. we see this around the world.
We see states rejecting the very existence of indigenous peoples. On the
Declaration it’s, it’s quite clear that it’s not the power or the role of states
to define who is and is not indigineous. >>Is the right of indigenous people’s to
determine that for themselves. it said it in, in Article 33. I think that, that’s
one of the, the things you look at in comparison around the world, and you see
the declaration comes to play in relation to the unique realities of indigenous
people’s around the world. That so many indigenous peoples, you know, suffer
under a situation in which their very existence is, is utterly denied. But the
other part of your question was that aspect of the what was the merge of an
experience between meeting, working alongside of and advocating together with
indigenous peoples from other parts of the world. How that experience shapes our
understanding of indigenous rights. Maybe Romeo? Cause you were talking your own
experience of going to other nations over the years. Just to, just to complete the,
the aspect of the first question. Or the question that was just answered. that’s
perhaps, the other reason why we don’t have, we don’t have under the declaration
a definition for indigenous peoples. Just as under international law. We don’t have
a definiation for peoples who have that right of self determination because there
are complex issues. And Ellen is quite right. These are rights that belong to
the institutions of the indigenous peoples themselves to determine, who is
their citizens. >>Marter citizens. one thing I noticed when
I went to the truth and reconciliation commission and to answer the, the second
question. in Montreal us survival survivors of residential schools to not
have the opportunity to, to gather, often. wherever, whatever we do in our
lives today, wherever we are in our lives today, we don’t get to meet a lot of
other survivors. And there was something special when I attended the, the
international event in Montreal. right here two months ago, a month ago. And
there was something special there and you could feel the energy, the positive
energy that was, that was present in that room because of that there was so many
residential school survivors in that same room at the same time. something, there
was something special there that I felt, and, and similarly the experience in the
work that we did at the International level. all of a sudden and it’s part of I
guess the, the colonization of our methalogies /g. And decolonization
itself. When you get to meet people that went through the same experiences, that
went through the same hardships, that went through the same injustices that I
talked about earlier, the same grave violations of their basic and fundamental
human rights. From all parts of the world you gather strength from that experience,
because you get to say hey, my people are not alone. We are not alone in this
struggle, in this fight to achieve finally justice for indigenous people
around the planet. So that, that’s the single most
>>A important element that I drew from my experience, at least beside meeting all
these wonderful people of course. >>>>But, that experience of meeting, and
discussing, and exchanging, and sharing with other indigenous peoples and
representative from around the world was just a unique and And absolutely
formidible for the network that we managed to build from that and the
continued friendships that we have today and helping each other and reaching out
to throughout the planet to our brothers and sisters. That was unique. just to
follow up, little bit on that, and the international experience, and echoing
Romeo’s comments. One of the things that was truly extraordinary in this work, is
the way that indigenous peoples came from every corner of the globe. many of them
with the stories of the dispossession and extreme human rights violations in their
communities. And that, and that out of that grew well eventually the
Declaration, but also this incredible movement. And we have now throughout the
international human rights system, a, a really concentrated focus on the rights
of indigenous peoples, and the U.N. has a United Nations permanent forum on
indigenous issues, and who grand chief Ed John is a member of that. the U.N. has a
U.N. expert mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, and Chief Wilton
Littlechild is an expert member of that. We have a special repetoire on the rights
of indigenous peoples and all of those things came through this process and
remember that this process only began in the late 70s, in terms of this really
push on the international level. So, all of that energy created a lot of positive
things. And I think 1 of the other great things about going outside of Canada. has
been that we also can see, different ways of looking at this work in different
countries, and one of the things that we’ve seen, I mean we find that in the
current political climate in Canada, a lot of this work is a big struggle. In
other countries they’re approaching it differently, and and I think that’s
always useful to focus on because when governments want us Say, “Oh, it’s too
difficult to do this work.” or, you know, “Oh, that’s a set of lofty ideals, but
how would you make that real in principle?” But that’s not what all
governments are saying. And so just a few quick examples of that. you know, the
state of Denmark and Greenland have reconfigured their political relationship
And, and have proclaimed that, as de facto implementation, of the U.N.
declaration. that’s a very serious political move by a nation state to, to
work with the people of, of Greenland on what that relationship is now going to
look like. And another example from Japan During the negotiations of the
declaration Japan repeatedly said we don’t have indigenous peoples. And Japan
voted in favor of the declaration, and after the declaration was adopted, Japan
made a formal announcement that the Ainu are indigenous people in Japan, and we
recognized this because we have supported the U.N. declaration on the rights of
indigenous peoples. It doesn’t mean that the state of Japan and the Inu have
worked out all their challenges. But, but it’s a step and one of the other ones
that I just will draw your attention to which is in the back of the new the
booklets is there’s a, a statement from Norway which they’ve made several times
which is The declaration contextualizes all existing human rights, for indigenous
peoples, and provides therefore a natural frame of reference for work and debate
relating to the promotion of indigenous people’s rights. And again it doesn’t
mean that the Sami and the government of Norway don’t have challenges, they do.
But their approach is one of, okay so let’s use the declaration to address
those challenges, and find a way to move forward in corroboration rather than, and
as Romeo said earlier or, with a adversarial relationship
>>So I think that that’s one of the other international components that we can see
you know, we can approach some of these. We can learn from how this is being
approached in different areas of the world, that we are not yet seeing here.
>>I think we have time for one last question. As I say to my students I
always get the last word picking up in exactly what you’ve been talking about
and I’d, I’d like to direct this question to you Ellen . You’ve mentioned three in,
very, very, important concepts one was education The second was Colonialism. And
the third was Patriarchy. How do you see the revitalization of indigeneity given
the indemic. Difficulties with patriarchy, with a continuation of
colonialism which is invested in globalization, and how do we ensure that
sovereignty, in terms of education, is revitalized. That’s a, it’s excellent
question and it’s extremely complex to answer, but I’d, first thing that came to
my mind is, one person at a time. One step at a time and, and it’s. You know,
to, to, to quote a cliche, you know, you, that, that you drop that pebble in, in,
in the pond, and it ripples. And I, and I think it’s, we’ve been doing that for,
for, for many, many generations, because I just wanna add something to that, what,
what was discussed At the, the CBD, the convention of white adversity and the
draft of the Goya protocol before it became a protocol. I was speaking out,
making interventions and refuting what Canada was saying. And there was a woman
from India, she was one of the indigenous people from India, who came up to me
afterwards and she said You are so brave, because if I were to do that, here, when
I return home to my country I would be killed. And it really I’ve always
appreciated the fact that I can say what I say in Canada. I’ve had my privacy
invaded and, you know, I’m, I, we’re still struggling to get any kind of
justice for, for my community but. You know, I appreciate the fact that York
University is doing something like this. I appreciate the fact that I have such
intelligent and passionate people to work with. In regards to promoting and
protecting indigenous peoples rights, I think the spark has already been there in
revitalizing it. And, and, and it’s to regenerate as well, those things that
have been attacked. There’s so many richness in human rights that we can look
at And use in conjunction with our own indigenous languages, culture, and
customs. And, because, I think there’s one thing that, there’s one common thread
that, that, that is threatening every single person in this room. It doesn’t
matter who you are. And that is the threat to our environment that we depend
on for life. >>And if we stand shoulder to shoulder with
the people who are protesting the Tar Sands, who are protesting Enbridge, who
are protesting any kind of injustice including, you know, this is gonna be
controversial when i say, you know, bringing, bringing a child soldier,
Cotter, back from Bay A child soldier, who I thought, you know, like in war,
there is no such thing as murder because when there is justice and I’ll use what
Jennifer said from Rosalie Silberman Abella. We have no business figuring out
the cost of justice until we can figure out the cost of injustice. The education
system in Canada and the U.S. and I think indeed throughout the world has failed.
It’s failing everybody, but in particular indigenous children. As the right to self
determination includes the right to control our own education and bring in
our cultural legends And our, our languages. I think we should be
assimilating you. Cuz your assimilation of us has not been working for us. And
that’s what the is about. You can live with us but you have to understand that
this is how we take care of the land. You can live with us but this is how we take
care of the water. You can live with us but when you cut a tree you have to ask
us because it’s very important and we have to ask permission. And that’s what,
that’s what peaceful coexistence means. And the webcasts. You know, I love this,
this new medium that I’m really you know, sometimes bugs me but, because I don’t
know how to use it properly. But this medium of a webcast where people from
another part of the world can listen to us, hear what we’re saying, is
regenerating. Justice and education. So I think we’re, we’re doing it. We just need
to, to make the people who think that money is the most important thing, we
need to make them understand it. Because at the end of the day, as, as another
cliché, you cannot eat money. It will not bring you happiness. But what does bring
you happiness is when you feel good inside about yourself and you’ve achieved
that peace and you undrstand that we’re just a little speck in the the universe.
This is the only planet we have to go on. We’re not gonna go to the moon and we’re
not gonna go to Mars tomorrow, so. indigenous peoples rights are human
rights. Indigenous peoples rights can benefit you all. And, and we’re not a
threat. To anybody’s energy security, financial security. We.
>>Are with you. you just need to start paying more attention and then listening
to us, is all. Thank you very much, it’s been an honor.
>>I think we, I think we should let that be the, the last word, and I hope you’ll
join me in thanking all of our panelists. Paul Joff from the , Jennifer Preston and
Al Gabriel. [APPLAUSE]

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