Reconciliation at UFV

Posted by Yvon Dandurand, Associate Professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Yvon Dandurand is a Fellow and Senior Associate of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, a United Nations affiliated institute. He specializes in comparative criminal law and criminal justice research and has been extensively involved in numerous juvenile justice reform and policy development projects in Canada and abroad. He recently worked as the UNODC lead consultant for the development of the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. 

And now, the United Nations Human Rights Committee

The release today of the Human Rights Committee Report on Canada’s compliance with its human rights obligations in relation to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (and two optional protocols) makes it clear, once more, what Canada’s agenda must be to protect the rights of Indigenous peoples. Since the publication of the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it seems that we have spent too much time trying to label and condemn past actions and not enough addressing their current impact. Debating whether the term “cultural genocide” is the best way to describe past wrongs seem to have superseded the importance of a discussion of what concrete actions must be taken immediately.

In early June, an Angus Reid Institute’s survey revealed that Canadians are not confident that government will follow through with the Commission’s recommendations, citing that 43% of them expect the federal government to take less action than they believe it should. Only 7% of respondents were “very optimistic” the TRC process would lead to “a better situation for Canada’s aboriginal people”. The Human Rights Committee calls for Canada to fully implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The Human Rights Committee calls for specific actions to be taken and that should be our priority. The Committee is concerned that indigenous women and girls are disproportionately affected by life-threatening forms of violence, homicides and disappearances. The Committee recommended that Canada, as a matter of priority:  “a) address the issue of murdered and missing indigenous women and girls by conducting a national inquiry, as called for by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, in consultation with indigenous women’s organizations and families of the victims; b) review  its legislation at the federal, provincial and territorial levels and coordinate police responses across the country  with a view to preventing the occurrence of such murders and disappearances; c) investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators and provide reparation to victims and; d) address the root causes of violence against indigenous women and girls.”

The Committee is also concernedabout reports of the potential extinguishment of indigenous land rights and titles. It is concerned that land disputes between indigenous peoples and the State party which have gone on for years impose a heavy financial burden in litigation on the former. It is concerned about the slow application of the 2011 Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act that amends the Indian Act, to remove reported lasting discriminatory effects against indigenous women, in particular regarding the transmission of Indian status, preventing them and their descendants from enjoying all of the benefits related to such status. The Committee addressed the issue of the disproportionately high rate of incarceration of indigenous people, including women, in federal and provincial prisons across Canada. In all of these areas, the Committee required Canada to take immediate action.

Finally, also concerned with the situation of indigenous peoples in Canada, the Committee recommended that the government, in consultation with indigenous people: (a) implement and reinforce its existing programmes and policies to supply basic needs to indigenous peoples; (b) reinforce its policies aimed at promoting the preservation of the languages of indigenous peoples; and, (c) provide family and child care services on reserves with sufficient funding.

According to the same Angus Reid Poll (June 9-12, 2015) one in three Canadians does not know anyone who is Aboriginal and the likelihood that someone is more sympathetic to the recommendations of the Commission is apparently influenced by whether or not someone has had contacts with someone of Aboriginal descent or people who are First Nations. As educators, what does that tell us?

Response by:
Geoffrey Carr
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