The United Nations has taken Canada to task for its “most glaring human rights problem” – its treatment of First Nations people. On Aug. 5, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) denounced Ottawa’s failure to consult with First Nations about the Governance initiative, discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, non-implementation of the RCAP Report and the Delgamuukw decision, the lack of an inquiry into Ipperwash, the negative impact of Bill C-31, and more.

The CERD committee considered Canada’s periodic report on domestic implementation of the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Ten of the 12 CERD Committee members paid special attention to Ottawa’s Comprehensive Claims Policy and its continuing effort to extinguish Aboriginal Title, which violates both Canadian Supreme Court of Canada decisions and international human rights law.

“The experts seem to have a greater understanding of the root causes of our Peoples’ problems than the government of Canada,” said Ravyn Godwin, an Indigenous activist in Geneva to represent the Skwelkwek’welt Protection Centre.’’Members of the Canadian delegation kept making up excuses and not really answering questions.” “A senior member of the Canadian delegation complained about the CERD Committee’s extensive questioning and implied that there should be less time spent on this,” reported Sharon Menow, a Cree woman from Norway House representing the Coalition for a Public Inquiry into Ipperwash. “On the other hand, the UN heard when we asked that further meaningful consultations be held in Canada and that public inquiries be conducted into violations of the rights of Indigenous activists who exercise their Inherent Rights, such as the killing of Dudley George.” Asits Amniyaak of the Nuxalk Nation remarked: “This helps break down Canada’s illusion of being a human rights champion. It is apparent that racism against Indigenous peoples runs rampant in Canada. It is unfortunate that Indigenous peoples are required to shame Canada on the international stage before Canada acts to correct any of the injustices suffered by our Peoples.” The CERD Committee will release its comments to Canada Aug. 23.

Canada’s reports and update to the Committee that oversees compliance with the International Convention painted a highly selective and rosy picture of the situation facing Aboriginal people in Canada. Individual program “successes” were used to obscure the continuing overall situation of over 600 First Nations and other indigenous peoples across Canada, namely that Aboriginal people in Canada experience discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives.

Committee members were not taken in, however. Dr. Kurt Herndl, Austrian expert on the Committee and Canadian Rapporteur, commented that “the report does not give a comprehensive picture of the measures adopted by Canada or in Canada to implement the Convention and does not really help to understand the interaction between the federal and provincial levels.”