Baptiste reacts to UN observations

Marilyn Baptiste highlights issues brought out from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observations.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste says there are a number of issues she wants to highlight following the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s concluding observations about what’s going on in Canada.

Baptiste was part of a delegation of First Nations leaders from Canada who attended the committee’s hearings in Geneva, Switzerland last month.

In its report, the committee notes that where Canada has enacted a corporate responsibility strategy, the committee is concerned that the state has not yet adopted measures with regard to transnational corporations registered in Canada whose activities negatively impact the rights of indigenous people outside Canada, in particular in mining activities.

“Of course, to me, that also applies in Canada obviously,” Baptiste says.

She also points to section 19 of the report that talks about aboriginal health funding and the need for implementing and reinforcing existing programs, and ultimately that the Canadian government provide the UN committee with information on the progress and concrete results of such programs and policies.

She also notes the committee’s concerns about the rights to consultation as provided in legislation and the right to prior, free and informed consent to projects and initiatives concerning aboriginal peoples not being “fully applied by the state party” and that they may be “subject to limitations.”

“Of course that is a simple reflection on the last panel’s report on Prosperity Mine about that exact thing, of the impacts to our aboriginal use of our territory now as well as in the future,” she says of the upcoming environmental review of New Prosperity.

The committee also points out various measures taken to combat violence against aboriginal women and girls. However, it says it remains concerned that demographic is disproportionately victims of life-threatening forms of violence, spousal homicides and disappearances.

Baptiste says she was advised Monday by her community’s social department that federal funding that used to flow through for family violence prevention initiatives in her community is being deleted. “The committee recommends strengthening programs that fight violence against women, not delete them. What does that mean, that Canada is implementing these steps for a short period of time to get through these steps at the United Nations level? That’s a little bit concerning,” she says.

A spokesperson from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, responding to Baptiste’s concerns regarding the funding program, says AANDC’s Family Violence Prevention Program (FVPP) is committed to fostering healthy First Nations families and invests approximately $30 million annually in family violence shelters and prevention programs and services on-reserve. “AANDC is working to renew the FVPP and considers minimizing the disruption to shelter services a key priority.

“The department also remains committed to supporting prevention projects; however, funding decisions for the next fiscal year are pending renewal of the program. We will know more details after the federal budget is announced,” the spokesperson says.