Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come launched a strong attack on Canada’s treatment of the First Nations at a Carleton University conference on December 10.
The grand chief was invited to speak about the problem of Quebec separation. Instead, he used his half-hour speech to slam the federal government for refusing to change its policies toward First Nations.
“I don’t see a signal that there is any change in the treatment of indigenous peoples in Canada,” he said at the conference, which was organized by the Assembly of First Nations.
”1 see the status quo and our communities are social time bombs.”
Coon Come called on Ottawa to heed the concerns of the United Nations Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, which has just released a report on Canada’s First Nations.
The UN committee said Canada’s treatment of First Nations is so bad it violates the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Canada has signed itself.
The UN noted that there is a “gross disparity” between Native and non-Native living conditions, and urged Canada to adopt the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP).
The UN frowned upon Canada’s policy of extinguishing First Nations rights, and said Ottawa isn’t doing enough to make sure provinces uphold Native rights.
Canada was also criticized for not following the UN committee’s last recommendations in 1993. Back then, Canada had adopted policies “which exacerbated poverty and homelessness among vulnerable groups at a time of strong economic growth and increasing affluence,” the UN committee reported.
Finally, the UN committee prodded Canada to do more on self-government and asked what rights First Nations would have if Quebec separates.
Grand Chief Coon Come praised the report. “For one thing, the UN committee took note of the extremely limited land and resource bases of aboriginal peoples in this country as a result of our ongoing dispossession. My own people, the James Bay Crees, were dispossessed in the early 1970s by flooding for a mega-project.
“Then, under duress, the brutal federal policy of extinguishment of aboriginal land rights and title was applied to us, upon the insistence of the Quebec government. The UN committee called for the restoration to aboriginal peoples of lands and resources that are adequate to ensure sustainable economies and societies,” he said.
Coon Come had little good to say about Ottawa’s idea of self-government. “I challenge any First Nation that says it has self-government. If you’re administering a federal program, you’re just an extension of the federal government – you’re administering your own poverty.
The Cree leader lamented the “tragically poor conditions faced almost universally in hundreds of aboriginal communities across this country,” where the “common theme is dispossession, exclusion, marginalization and discrimination.”
SOURCE: Windspeaker, Paul Barnsley