Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights

Indigenous Peoples' human rights work

Ellen Gabriel holds a copy of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) language version of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Closing Events June 1, 2015. CFSC provided financial support for the translation and printing of the Kanien’kehá:ka verison of the UN Declaration. Photo credit: Ben Powless

The Quaker Peace Testimony is based on Friends’ belief that there is that of God in everyone and that we cannot have peace without justice. CFSC believes Indigenous Peoples do not have justice and that Friends need to develop and nurture relationships of trust and mutual respect between ourselves, others in Canada, and the Indigenous Peoples of this territory.

CFSC’s goals in our work on Indigenous rights are:

  • to work with Indigenous partners to educate ourselves and the wider Canadian society;
  • to raise Friends’ awareness of the concerns of Indigenous Peoples, and to stimulate Friends’ active participation in supporting those concerns;
  • to provide small grants to grassroots Indigenous groups working for self-empowerment;
  • to focus on Indigenous Peoples’ human rights issues such as:
    • land rights and self-determination;
    • spirituality: acknowledging the right of Peoples to worship in the way of their own cultures and faith traditions;
    • Indigenous rights as affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and as protected under the Canadian Constitution.
  • to engage in dialogue with governments, corporations and international organizations such as the United Nations;
  • to cooperate with coalitions engaged in the work of securing Indigenous Peoples’ individual and collective human rights.

As an example of how we achieve these goals, CFSC was honoured to participate alongside many distinguished speakers to discuss the impacts of the Kanehsatà:ke Siege/Oka Crisis on its 25th anniversary on July 11, 2015:

For more about our Indigenous rights work see:

All of CFSC’s work uses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework and seeks its full implementation in Canada and internationally.

Building Bridges 2016 – Jennifer Preston.

History of Canadian Friends’ work with Indigenous Peoples

After some 500 years of a relationship that has swung from partnership to domination, from mutual respect and co-operation to paternalism and attempted assimilation, Canada must now work out fair and lasting terms of coexistence with Aboriginal people. – Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, 1996

Since the times of William Penn and John Woolman, Quakers have been listening to and involved with concerns of Indigenous Peoples. The formal beginnings of work on Indigenous issues within CFSC was prefaced by a minute recorded by Canadian Yearly Meeting in 1974:

…a confrontation between the Ojibway people of the [Kenora] area and various levels of government…has occupied our hearts and minds. We are concerned that active violence not erupt; and equally concerned that long standing grievances be understood, and all measures of settlement of those grievances be encouraged…

Friends went to Kenora to be a presence and to hear firsthand the long standing grievances concerning land rights, housing, medical care, education, Indigenous spirituality, child welfare, and mercury poisoning.

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit Norway Delegation

UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Credit Norway Delegation

A major focus since the 1990s has been to work in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples towards first the realization and then (since its adoption by the UN in 2007) the full implementation, of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This work draws extensively on Friends’ tradition of “quiet diplomacy” (i.e. providing a place where UN diplomats, staff, and nongovernmental partners can work on difficult issues in a quiet, off-the-record atmosphere out of the public eye), which has been used within the UN system for decades through the Quaker UN Offices.

In 2001 Sarah Chandler presented the annual Sunderland P. Gardiner lecture at Canadian Yearly Meeting. Her lecture, The Never Broken Treaty? Quaker Witness and Testimony on Aboriginal Title and Rights: What canst thou say? prompts Canadian Quakers and all settlers to examine our roles in the ongoing oppression of Indigenous Peoples and provides suggestions for engagement and work for positive change. Today we continue this engagement by working with Quakers from across Canada to promote action in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions’s 94 Calls to Action.