UN special rapporteur on Indigenous people to present findings tomorrow in Ottawa

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples will wrap up his first official visit to Canada with a press conference highlighting his findings in Ottawa tomorrow morning.

The 10-day visit from Jose Francisco Cali Tzay is the first such visit since he was appointed to the role in 2020. He will present his preliminary findings and recommendations will be shared in a press conference tomorrow in Ottawa.

Kahnawake’s Kenneth Deer, a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy External Relations Committee, said he expects Cali Tzay to point out what many Indigenous people and observers already know: that the federal government talks a good game, but that concrete action toward reconciliation comes at a glacial pace in this country.

“Canada has this altar boy image out there that everything is wonderful,” he said. “We need people like the Special Rapporteur to focus on human rights violations that take place within Canada.

It helps keep Canada to account. We are still hearing stories about Indigenous women being sterilized without their consent, and this is the sort of thing that has to be dealt with.”

Deer, who has represented the Haudenosaunee Confederacy on the international stage for many years, said he raised a number of issues with Cali Tzay, including human rights issues like Canada not fully recognizing the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as a government, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, unmarked burials associated with former Residential Schools, and institutionalized racism in Quebec.

Deer is hoping the rapporteur’s visit will help speed up the oft-glacial pace of reconciliation.

“Obviously, nothing happens overnight. It’s been many years that Indigenous people have been facing racism and discrimination, so it’s going to take a long time for the situation to improve,” he said, adding he expects the rapporteur to address those issues and others tomorrow.

A UN statement indicated the special rapporteur’s visit would focus on several issues, including the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the right to self-determination, land, and resources, according to a statement from the UN human rights office. In addition, issues on the agenda also included Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, unmarked burial sites associated with Residential Schools, language and culture.

Federal Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller also met with Cali Tzay in Montreal last Thursday, and Miller conceded that there has been a disconnect between the government’s planning and its execution of policy.

“The big step for government is actually getting to, with Indigenous peoples, getting to the finish line,” he said. “That’s where, as a government, we often stumble on is that implementation portion of principles and policy.”

The special rapporteur’s visit was prompted by a request from Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, when the two met in New York at the United Nations session in in April 2022.

“I wish the Special Rapporteur a safe journey across Turtle Island,” Archibald said. “I look forward to (tomorrow) when he shares his observations for the healing path forward.”

 Marc Lalonde is a  Local Journalism Initiative Reporter  with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded.


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