Canadian Friends Service Committee is currently at the 12th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues being held in New York. We have supported partners in several joint statements:
- On the Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- On a study done by the Permanent Forum on the extent of violence against Indigenous women and girls
- On Indigenous culture and language
Photo credit Norway UN
12th Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Agenda item 5: Culture
by Kontinonhstats Mohawk Language Custodians Association, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, Indigenous World Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Canadian Friends Service Committee, AFN Alberta Regional Chief, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Speaker: Ellen Gabriel
Wa’tkwanón:werà:tons – Greetings
Niawenhkó:wa for the honor and privilege to address the Permanent Forum on Indigenous issues. Language is a pillar of cultural identity. Indigenous languages and cultures are inextricably linked and are mutually reinforcing to our distinct Indigenous identity. For that reason our languages and cultures require promotion, revitalization and protection for the perpetuation of our Indigenous identities and self-determination.
We support the numerous reports and recommendations made by various human rights bodies including:
- The UNPFII “Report of the international experts group meeting on indigenous languages” E/C.19/2008/3, dated January 8, 2008.
- The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Study on the role of languages and culture in the promotion and protection of the rights and identity of indigenous peoples A/HRC/12/33,
As the UNPFII E/C.19/2008/3 report states in Challenges and Gaps, 31. “Language loss is attributed to globalization and migration, it is also a result of systemic and deliberate efforts to destroy languages using racist and discriminatory policies and laws.”
These recommendations and conclusions should be reiterated and reaffirmed as the threats highlighted in these reports remain. Unfortunately, the lack of improvement can often be attributed to lack of political will of states and their continued assimilation policies.
In 2008, UNPFII Recommendations: 13. “The protection of indigenous languages is therefore not only a cultural and moral imperative, but an important aspect of global efforts to address biodiversity loss, climate change and other environmental challenges.”
Supportive human rights instruments that promote and protect Indigenous cultures and languages are encouraging, however the actual process of implementation remains challenging. There is an “implementation gap”, which is both distressing and intolerable.
There are many best practice reports and considerable research on how to regenerate threatened languages. However, each year we lose more speakers and holders of traditional knowledge. Time is working against us. It is imperative that we act now.
If education is valued and conceptualized as an “investment” by states, then Language and Culture must concomitantly be viewed as such. Recruitment and retention of new speakers creates employment, creates opportunities and promotes the self-worth of Indigenous peoples.
Access to financial resources is essential to engage the human resources required for indigenous peoples to rebuild their institutions decimated by colonial laws, policies and programs.
Controlling our own education to rebuild the pillars of Indigenous identity requires the retention of every available human resource person who is a fluent speaker and cultural knowledge holder.
What is desperately needed is a mechanism of implementation that invokes states to uphold their positive obligations in the promotion and protection of Indigenous peoples’ collective human rights.
We therefore propose the following measures for the revitalization and perpetuation of Indigenous culture and languages:
1. Recreate relationships between states and Indigenous peoples to reflect the standards of the UNDRIP and respect the self-determining rights of Indigenous peoples.
2. Establish Indigenous language immersion programmes for children, parents and adults.
3. Access to financial resources that provide Indigenous communities with the ability to create a system of education based upon their culture, languages, customs and governance.
4. Indigenous education curriculum be in accordance with the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of Indigenous peoples and their communities.
5. Protection and regeneration of our languages and cultures must be approached with a holistic view inclusive of food sovereignty, education, agriculture, customary laws, and land use.
6. Indigenous education standards and curriculum be developed and evaluated by Indigenous peoples, Indigenous language teachers and traditional knowledge holders.
 UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Report of the international experts group meeting on indigenous languages” E/C.19/2008/3, dated January 8, 2008.
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
New York, 20 – 31 May 2013
Agenda Item 7: Human Rights
Study on the extent of violence against Indigenous women and girls in terms of Article 22 (2) of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Joint Statement of Amnesty International Canada; Native Women’s Association of Canada; Femmes Autochtones du Québec; Amnistie internationale Canada francophone; First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada; National Association of Friendship Centres; Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs; Chiefs of Ontario; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition.
Our organizations welcome the Permanent Forum’s important and much needed study on violence against Indigenous women and girls.
Indigenous women around the world have testified to the shockingly high rates of violence that they face. The largely unresolved legacy of racism and the devaluing of women under colonialism, the ongoing marginalization of Indigenous peoples, and the systemic discrimination faced by women in every region of the world, all combine to fuel acts of extreme brutality against Indigenous women and girls while denying them the full and adequate protection and safety in their day to day lives.
Unfortunately, as the study notes, States have not dedicated adequate resources to exposing and understanding the particular patterns of violence that threaten the lives and safety of Indigenous women and girls or to enacting the specific measures needed to address this violence in a comprehensive way. Most States do not even maintain gender-disaggregated data on the rate of violence specifically targeting Indigenous women and girls, a fact that perpetuates the invisibility of these crimes. We support actions to increase community safety and for National Public Commissions of Inquiry into violence against Indigenous women and girls where violence against Indigenous women is going unrecorded and undocumented so it can no longer be denied.
We welcome this study’s focus on Articles 21 and 22 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peoples which calls on States to pay particular attention to the “rights and special needs” of Indigenous women and other vulnerable members of Indigenous society and which require states to “take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.” These provisions are significant in their own right as a clear call for action. They are also significant because they clearly integrate State obligations to address violence against Indigenous women within the larger framework of Indigenous peoples’ human rights as set out in the Declaration and in other international human rights instruments.
We believe strongly that the pervasive and systematic nature of violence against Indigenous women necessitates a comprehensive response capable of addressing the root causes of this violence. We support the study’s findings that particular attention must be paid to the needs of Indigenous women in all measures to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples and that violence against Indigenous women must be addressed within the wider framework of protection against discrimination and respect for the collective rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In January 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that called on all states to fulfill their responsibility to eliminate all forms of violence against women “by means of a more systematic, comprehensive, multisectoral and sustained approach, adequately supported and facilitated by strong institutional mechanisms and financing, through national action plans…”  The resolution named as critical areas for action: equal access to justice; access to housing, health, and education; women’s rights to land and property; vulnerability to HIV/AIDS; the importance of poverty eradication; the need for better and more accurate data collection; the need for public education and training of police and public officials around discrimination and stereotyping; and the need to better understand how gender violence intersects with other forms of discrimination, including racial discrimination.
In 2009, the UN General Assembly adopted a second Resolution calling for National Action Plans to end violence against women. In this resolution, the General Assembly called on all states to provide “adequate financial support for the implementation of national action plans to end violence against women” and to allocate “adequate resources to promote the empowerment of women and gender equality and to prevent and redress all forms and manifestations of violence against women.” The resolution also calls for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of progress made toward the goals of the National Action Plan.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which is associated with the Millennium Development Goals, calls on all countries to have adequately-resourced National Action Plans to end violence against women adopted and underway by 2015.
The Permanent Forum’s study makes a clear case why such National Action Plans must pay particular attention to violence against Indigenous women and girls and why the UN Declaration should be used a guiding framework in the elaboration of such National Action Plans. To this end, we would like to suggest three additional recommendations that are consistent with and complementary to the Study’s findings:
1) THAT States work in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples to ensure that, in fulfillment of United Nations General Assembly Resolutions calling for the creation and implementation of National Action Plans to end violence against women, particular attention is paid to the needs and rights of Indigenous women and girls as required by Articles 21 and 22 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
2) THAT States use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a key framework for the development of National Action Plans to end violence specifically against Indigenous women and girls and ensure that the human rights protections set out in the Declaration are a cornerstone of such plans.
3) THAT recognizing that in some States, effective interventions have already been identified at the local, national and international levels – States should undertake immediate and comprehensive measures, in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous peoples, to ensure the continued operation of effective interventions and to implement new measures to address violence against women and girls while National Action Plans are developed.
 UN General Assembly, Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 30 January 2007, A/RES/61/143.
 UN General Assembly, Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly, 30 January 2009, A/RES/63/155.
Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
New York, 20 – 31 May 2013
Agenda Item 7: Human Rights: Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Joint Statement of First Nations Summit; Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee); Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers); Amnesty International; Assembly of First Nations; Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations; Chiefs of Ontario; Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs; Assembly of First Nations of Québec and Labrador/Assemblée des Premières Nations du Québec et du Labrador; Native Women’s Association of Canada; Quebec Native Women/Femmes Autochtones du Québec; National Association of Friendship Centres; Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group; International Indian Treaty Council; First Peoples Human Rights Coalition.
Speaker: Chief Doug White
Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Doctrine of Discovery
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in its entirety is rooted in the principle of racial non-discrimination, a peremptory norm from which no derogation is permitted. Full and effective implementation of the UN Declaration is dependent on ensuring that racial discrimination against Indigenous peoples is eradicated.
Last year, the special theme of the Permanent Forum focused on the Doctrine of Discovery, its enduring impacts and the need for redress. In this regard, our organizations look forward to an expert study to be tabled at next year’s session. In its 2012 final report, the Forum called on all States to repudiate colonial doctrines such as the doctrine of discovery, and associated legal fictions as the doctrine of terra nullius, “as the basis for denying indigenous peoples’ human rights.”
The Declaration unequivocally affirms:
“… all doctrines, policies and practices based on advocating superiority of peoples or individuals on the basis of national origin or racial, religious, ethnic or cultural differences are racist, scientifically false, legally invalid, morally condemnable and socially unjust”
Rejection of doctrines of superiority is also found in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Further, in September 2011, the UN Human Rights Council by consensus “condemned” doctrines of superiority “as incompatible with democracy and transparent and accountable governance”.
There is no doubt that the doctrine of discovery is based on assertion of racial superiority. Yet developed States, such as Canada, United States and Australia, among many others, continue to shamefully rely upon and perpetuate this debilitating doctrine for their narrow self-interest. Under the doctrine, the ability of the colonializing powers to claim to unilaterally extinguish the pre-existing sovereignty of Indigenous peoples and establish their own dominion over Indigenous peoples’ lands, territories, and resources is – as the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples has noted – inextricably linked to “colonial era attitudes toward indigenous peoples that can only be described as racist.”
The doctrine of discovery must not be used as justification for the arbitrary and unilateral denial of the human rights of Indigenous peoples. In this context, we bring to your attention the judgment of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, rendered on 27 June 2012. This ruling, if not reversed by Canada’s highest court, could set a dangerous precedent.
The judgment includes: “European explorers considered that by virtue of the “principle of discovery” they were at liberty to claim territory in North America on behalf of their sovereigns … While it is difficult to rationalize that view from a modern perspective, the history is clear.”
In the contemporary context of justice, reconciliation and international human rights, the doctrine of discovery must have no place whatsoever in determining Indigenous peoples’ title and rights, in international and domestic law. States and courts must not rely on this fictitious doctrine so as to purportedly diminish or extinguish Indigenous peoples’ sovereignty and title.
True implementation of the UN Declaration requires the repudiation of this racist and colonial doctrine.
1. THAT the Permanent Forum reiterate its recommendation that States repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery and fully utilize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework for justice and reconciliation.
2. THAT the Permanent Forum reiterate the recommendation of Special Rapporteur James Anaya in his August 2012 report: “courts should discard such colonial era doctrine in favour of an alternative jurisprudence infused with … contemporary human rights values … including those values reflected in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
3. THAT States take immediate measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that the Doctrine is not invoked in contemporary court cases or negotiations that should be aimed at the affirmation, protection and restitution of Indigenous peoples’ lands, territories and resources, consistent with international human rights standards.
4. THAT the Permanent Forum reaffirm that international human rights law is a legitimate and important influence on the development of the common law. Any common law doctrine founded on discrimination in the enjoyment of Indigenous peoples’ rights demands urgent reconsideration.
5. THAT for full and effective implementation of the UN Declaration, all States must abandon policies that serve to deny the existence of Aboriginal title and unjustly place the burden of proof on Indigenous peoples that have territorial rights based on original occupation.
6. THAT affirmation of Indigenous peoples’ title to lands, territories and resources is critical for their survival, dignity, security and well-being. States and domestic courts must reject any use of or reliance on the doctrine of discovery and “extinguishment” of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Extinguishment is also a relic of colonialism and such destruction of rights is incompatible with international human rights law.
 Report on the eleventh session (7 – 18 May 2012), Economic and Social Council, Official Records, Supplement No. 23, United Nations, New York, E/2012/43-E/C.19/2012/13, para. 4.
 Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, Addendum: The situation of indigenous peoples in the United States of America, UN Doc. A/HRC/21/47/Add.1 (30 August 2012). Para 16.
 Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2012 BCCA 285, para. 166
Download this Joint Statement as a PDF.
Canada’s human rights record just underwent a peer review process under the United Nations Human Rights Council. A number of organizations, including CFSC, have issued this media release with updated information from Geneva.
29 April 2013
World community urges comprehensive response to human rights violations facing Indigenous peoples in Canada
(Geneva) Many of Canada’s closest diplomatic allies and trading partners are urging the federal government to do more to address the serious human rights issues facing First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
On Friday, Canada’s human rights record was examined in a peer review process under the United Nations Human Rights Council.
During the process, called the Universal Periodic Review, more than 80 states offered comments and recommendations on Canada’s human rights record. The vast majority of state comments related to persistent human rights violations experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. These include violation of land rights, inequalities in education, health, drinking water and sanitation, food insecurity, control over lands and resources, and racial discrimination.
More than 20 states raised specific concerns about high levels of violence against Indigenous women in Canada. New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and others urged Canada to adopt a comprehensive and coordinated national action plan to end such violence. Ireland called on Canada to also conduct an independent national inquiry into missing Indigenous women and establish effective databases. Australia recommended that the Aboriginality of victims of gender-based violence be accurately recorded.
The United States noted that on a per child basis, federal funding for child and family services in First Nations communities “has fallen to less than 80 percent of that provided by provincial and territorial governments for services in predominantly non-Aboriginal communities.” The United States urged Canada to “ensure parity of funding and services between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities.”
The United Kingdom, Finland and Germany were among states that highlighted the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Canada endorsed the UN Declaration in November 2010 but has denied any obligation to implement its provisions.
A number of states highlighted the importance of open collaboration with UN experts like the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples and respect for recommendations from UN treaty bodies.
Inequalities in access to drinking water and sanitation systems were also noted. Norway, for example, recommended that Canada take measures to ensure that all Canadians have full and equal access to clean water and sanitation.
Canada was previously examined under the Universal Periodic Review in 2009. Many of the same concerns were raised at that time. Although Canada acknowledged “the underlying principles” of state concerns, actions to date on their specific recommendations remain inadequate.
The report of the latest review will be released by the United Nations on Tuesday, April 30.
More information, including Canada’s statement and formal report, the comments and recommendations of other states, and the reports submitted by Indigenous peoples’ organizations and civil society groups, can be found at:
[A password to access the extranet site can be set up at:
1-416-363-9933 ext 332
First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada
Executive Director of Communications
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Cell: 1- 306-220-7187
Director of International Affairs and Human Rights
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Chiefs of Ontario
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Anne Ste Marie
514-766-9766 ext 230
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- We’re at the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
- Joint Statement: Culture
- Joint Statement: Study on the extent of violence against Indigenous women and girls
- Joint Statement: Implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
- World community urges comprehensive response to human rights violations facing Indigenous peoples in Canada