Monday, 13 July 2015
Recently two events occurred that once again spurred discussion in Canada about its relations to its Aboriginal population. On May 28, 2015, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of Canada’s Supreme Court delivered a speech in which she made explicit reference to Canada’s cultural genocide of its Aboriginal peoples. I am sure many people were surprised by this speech, and some may have speculated that in her position Chief Justice McLachlin should not have used such a phrase. On June 2, 2015, Justice Murray Sinclair released the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been exploring the terrible abuses of Aboriginal children in residential schools from the late 19th to the late 20th century. He, too, used the phrase, “cultural genocide.”
Monday, 7 October 2013
Internationalization and global governance occupy two-way streets, even for a wealthy country like Canada. For generations, Canadians have viewed the UN and other global governance institutions as operating in a single direction: taking resources from the well-to-do nations and redistributing them to poorer countries or regions in crisis. This country has been comfortable with this approach for a long time, dispatching peace-keeping troops, sending foreign aid and supporting many humanitarian and social justice initiatives around the world.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Public discussion of UNDRIP has been surprisingly limited, both in Canada and on the international scene. The dramatic two-stage passage of the agreement - the initial positive vote by the UN General Assembly and the subsequent acceptance of the declaration by Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA - seemed to be a promising start that quickly lost political momentum. Aside from occasional mentions by Aboriginal leaders, the Declaration has languished on the pile of once-promising UN agreements, honored more in the breach than by concerted action.
Tuesday, 27 August 2013
The UNDRIP was defined at the time of its passage as an "aspirational document." Those governments that resisted the declaration worried that the creation of international law on Aboriginal rights would elevate Indigenous expectations. This is precisely what appears to be happening.
Thursday, 22 August 2013
The core lesson in the creation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was simple: collective action by Indigenous peoples could force major changes in international law and national government policies. As late as 2000, the prospects for the draft declaration looked less than auspicious. It was not clear that the United Nations would approve a complex and politically-potent document. When it passed in 2007, four influential nations -- Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States -- held out, declaring that UNDRIP contradicted national policies and was impractical. The four countries capitulated in 2010 and UNDRIP was established as a key statement of international aspirations.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
For the past two months, Canadians have experienced unprecedented attention to Aboriginal affairs. The combination of three elements – the long and controversial fast of Chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa, dozens and dozens of events across the country under the banner of Idle No More, and intense debates within the Assembly of First Nations about the appropriate strategy for negotiating with the Government of Canada – kept Indigenous issues in the headlines for two months straight.
Monday, 3 December 2012
Governments around the world are gradually recognizing and acknowledging that historical and existing models of government relations with Indigenous peoples have not worked and that new approaches are urgently needed. Good governance, almost everyone agrees, is the absolute foundation of locally controlled and effective social, economic, political and cultural development. Standard Western models of government, typically judged by financial metrics and bottom-line accounting procedures, do not fit well with Indigenous needs and aspirations. New approaches, tied to broader evaluations of effectiveness and built off of “triple bottom line” thinking, are urgently needed if there is to be genuine improvement and meaningful power sharing with Indigenous peoples.
Tuesday, 20 November 2012
Canada's decision in 2010 to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples represented much more than a change of federal government policies. The belated action, coming three years after the UN passed this historic agreement, marked the high point in the generations-long struggle for the recognition of Aboriginal rights.
Monday, 5 November 2012
A decade ago, a group of First Nations leaders from Canada traveled to Siberia to meet with Indigenous groups in the former Soviet Union. Squalid living conditions, limited health and education facilities and widespread poverty, combined with little respect for Indigenous rights, dismayed the Canadian visitors. At the end of the tour, responding to a journalist's question, one First Leader reportedly said, "I will never complain about the Canadian government again."
Monday, 22 October 2012
Canadian social policies directed towards Aboriginal (First Nation, Metis and Inuit) populations have largely been developed outside of a historical, cultural framework, providing a long standing demonstration of the role of policy as a centralized mechanism of social control. Little attention has been given to the specific cultures of diverse Aboriginal communities in the design and administration of policies which are administered across Canada. Aboriginal peoples have, historically, been collectively addressed in federal policies as “the Indian Problem,” rather than recognized and addressed, as they expected, as sovereign peoples with distinct cultures.
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
In 1974, Canadian First Nations leader George Manuel (1921-1989) published The Fourth World, a searing indictment of the mistreatment of marginalized Indigenous and state-less peoples around the world. This powerful work, by the leader of the National Indian Brotherhood (predecessor of the Assembly of First Nations) in Canada, laid the intellectual foundations for the establishment of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples in 1975. Manuel and his Indigenous colleagues from countries around the world brought a radically different perspective to international politics, one based on the shared experience of colonization, the often brutal suppression of Indigenous cultures, and a passionate determination to assert control over their future.