Adding her voice to the World Conference Against Racism, Chief Violet Pachanos of the Grand Council of the Crees addressed a plenary session in Durban, South Africa on September 6, 2001.

“It is autumn now in Eeyou Istchee,” Chief Pachanos told the large crowd of delegates assembled in the Durban Conference Center. “The geese will soon fly south from Hudson’s Bay over our traditional lands. As we have done for thousands of years, our hunters will try to ensure that we have food for our families for the long winter. Sadly, for our people, this is no longer possible. Just 25 years ago, the Canadian government permitted a hydroelectric mega-project to divert our rivers and flood our traditional lands. We have lived in our lands for thousands of years, but our People was not consulted before our lands and forests were flooded and destroyed.”

Having laid out the particular situation of the James Bay Cree in Quebec, Pachanos went on to connect this to the international law of human rights by pointing to a need for Native Peoples to have “access to these standards to prevent and correct” unfair treatment experienced at a national level, even in Canada. “We had great hope for the WCAR process,” said Pachanos. “Instead, the draft WCAR Declaration takes us backwards. It uses the word ‘peoples’, but it then takes the full meaning of the word away from us by saying it has no international human rights meaning, and is subject to other restrictions aimed only at Indigenous Peoples.” Pachanos challenged the Conference when she stated, “Indigenous Peoples have been waiting hundreds of years. If the right thing is not done now, when will it be done? If you do not do the right thing, who will?”