Matthew Coon Come is off to Durban, South Africa to take part in the World Conference Against Racism. The National Grand Chief is hoping to use the world stage to gain recognition for the rights of Aboriginal Peoples around the world. Mr. Coon Come is especially keen on drawing attention to the fact that although Canada basks in a golden reputation for being a world leader when it comes to human rights, Native people in Canada face systemic and institutional racism on a daily basis.

“Racism is a fact of life for our peoples in Canada,” Coon Come said. “Governments and institutions may deny it but we experience it. When we demand the recognition of our rights, the state will use its armed forces against us. We have seen that in Oka, in Ipperwash where one of our unarmed citizens was murdered by the state, in Gustafsen and again last year in Burnt Church. The world must know the truth about Canada.”

Coon Come also cited the high rates of “diseases of poverty and dispossession, such as tuberculosis and diabetes” suffered by the Native population, the alarming suicide rate among children, and unemployment rates as high as 85% in many communities, as examples that Aboriginal people are “excluded from the Canada known and taken for granted by ail other Canadians.”

The South African conference had already drawn a great deal of attention before it officially got off the ground due to threatened boycotts on the part of nations including Canada and the United States over claims of anti-Semitism in some of the conference literature and on the part of pro-Palestinian participants.