On February 22 and 23, Canada’s record on combating discrimination will be examined by the United Nations. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) is the independent expert body that monitors compliance with the international treaty of that same name.
As a signatory to the Convention, Canada is required to report regularly to the Committee on measures taken to comply with its provisions. Canada filed a report to the committee.
More than 35 Indigenous nations, regional and national Indigenous peoples’ organizations, human rights and social justice organizations have filed their alternative reports. These reports address a wide range of concerns that these groups think Canada has failed to address, or address adequately, including violence against Indigenous women, extractive industries on Indigenous lands, the high rates of incarceration of Indigenous peoples, protection of Indigenous peoples’ economic, social and cultural rights, and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Canada’s actions in the international arena to undermine the Declaration and others standards for the protection of Indigenous rights.
Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) says: “International attention is needed because the government of Canada is failing to meet its domestic and international legal obligations address these urgent human rights concerns.”
The Committee urges states to consult with Indigenous peoples’ organizations and NGOs before making their reports. However, it is reported that Canada submitted its report to the Committee without consultation or the involvement of Indigenous peoples and human rights organizations.
As one example, Canada is currently being sued in its Federal Court in a landmark human rights complaint over discrimination in the funding of services to First Nations children on reserves, but Canada’s report to the Committee makes no mention of the case.
When the U.N. Committee reviewed Canada in 2007, it expressed concern over Canada’s processes for settling Aboriginal land claims. Robert Morales, Chief Negotiator for the Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group, said, “Canada continues to fail to meet its international obligations to respect Indigenous land rights under conditions of equality, and Canadian negotiation and litigation processes continue to pose extreme hurdles to indigenous peoples’ efforts to protect, title, and demarcate their traditional lands.”
Canada also failed to respond to direct questions from the Committee’s last review, including a request to report back on measures to hold Canadian corporations accountable for their activities on the lands of Indigenous peoples in other countries.
The review session is being held at the United Nations in Geneva and will be webcast at http://www.ccprcentre.org/home/215
Submissions to the Committee are posted online at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/cerds80.htm