The glaring exception to everything one loves about Canada can be found in the profound inequality of life on First Nations Reserves and life for off-reserve urban Aboriginal people across Canada. Water that is too hazardous to drink; serious health problems from diabetes to tuberculosis, addiction, and suicide; unacceptably poor housing stock; high unemployment rates − all make a mockery of our progress elsewhere in maintaining our ‘social safety net.’
Canadians like to forget that white South Africa based apartheid on the Canadian Aboriginal policy. Many non-natives are unaware of the fundamental human rights violations occurring within our midst. Canadian Aboriginal peoples, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit, know that the fundamental assumption of colonial powers since the first Europeans arrived in what is now Canada has been a policy of assimilation.
Unbeknownst to most non-native Canadians, and even some First Nations, the ultimate disposition of land claims agreement is the extinguishment of Aboriginal title. This is an inherent right of indigenous people and its extinguishment violates international human rights law. Various human rights committees within the United Nations system have frequently been critical of Canada’s treatment of and laws regarding Aboriginal peoples.
Finally, in November of 2010, after years of stalling, the government of Canada quietly signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The delay was unconscionable and embarrassing. Now action is required.
As government, the Greens will speedily move to implement the UN Declaration. We will also restore the $5.1 billion commitment and the specifics of the Kelowna Accord. One of the central features of the landmark Kelowna Accord, reached between federal and provincial, territorial and First Nations governments in Canada in November of 2005, is the creation of ‘baselines.’ Baselines are critical to assess the levels of Aboriginal health and well-being.
The issues impacting Aboriginal people in Canada are complex and cannot be assessed without a full sense of the searing violence of generations of occupation and assault upon their traditional cultures and values. The legacy of the residential school system remains a factor in mental health and wellness. No Canadian should be satisfied with the failed policies of the Indian Act, the huge bureaucracy of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, and the enormous outlays of funding for lawyers and ‘experts’ in the interminable comprehensive claims process.
Something fundamental needs to shift. That shift must begin with dignity for all Aboriginal peoples: respect, an end to policies of assimilation, and strong support for health and education on and off reserve. Health specialists and behavioural experts need to be trained from within communities to provide the proper support for fetal alcohol syndrome children. Work must be intensified to ensure more programs that involve elders mentoring young people. Employment opportunities in resource-based industries on Aboriginal territories will be encouraged. Trap lines will be protected. We will work to sustain the Inuit hunting culture that is under rapid assault due to the impacts of the climate crisis. The Green Party of Canada will ensure that governments and corporations alike respect the 1990 Supreme Court of Canada Sparrow decision upholding Aboriginal rights such as fishing and the right of Aboriginal peoples to be consulted about decisions and accommodated in those decisions that impact their resources and their future. The June 2014 Supreme Court decision in the T’sicoltin case sets a blazing path for recognition of Aboriginal title. The intergenerational and communal nature of title must be respected.
We must work together to ensure no more communities are added to the list of shame in Canada: Oka, Ipperwash, Gustafson Lake, Sutikalh, Sun Peaks, Cheam, and Caledonia. Never again. Our shift in attitude will mean true nation-to-nation dialogue and negotiations. It will mean a just accommodation of Aboriginal peoples’ aspirations and an equitable sharing of Canada’s natural resources. It will mean full recognition of the cultural, political, and economic contributions of First Nations, Inuit, Innu, and Métis people to Canada and an end to the prejudice.
Green Party MPs will: