UN Rapporteur James Anaya (far left) stands next to Grand Chiefs of Treaty 6 Nations before the start of the consultation meeting at the Ermineskin High School gym.

First Nations’ concerns under UN spotlight

Federal government came under severe criticism on Friday, Oct . 11 from the people and the chiefs of Treaty 6 Nations

Federal government came under severe criticism on Friday, Oct . 11 from the people and the chiefs of Treaty 6 Nations when they met UN Special Rapporteur James Anaya who visited Canada on the invitation of the leaders of the First Nations in various parts of the country.

At a consultation meeting at the Ermineskin High School gym in Hobbema, First Nation chiefs and elders accused the Harper government of intimidation and bullying in order to turn First Nations administrations to municipalities through “manufactured consent” by employing tactics that ignored the sovereign rights of the First Nations.

During the presentations which followed private consultations and a pipe ceremony involving special rapporteur Anaya and the chiefs of the Treaty 6 Nations, speakers said exploitation of resources on their territories was harming natural life and people who were consuming meat and fish hunted in those areas were getting sick.

Speakers stressed that the Canadian government was ignoring its responsibilities under the UN Declaration governing the rights and privileges of the indigenous peoples and called for international adjudication on how those rights should be exercised and guarded.

Chief Craig Mackinaw, Grand Chief of Treaty 6, said the consultation was organized with the participation of several Grand Chiefs from Alberta and representatives or chiefs of some nations from Saskatchewan.

“What we are hoping for is that we bring to the table our concerns and the Special Rapporteur will take our issues to the UN,” said Mackinaw.

He said the visit was important in that Anaya was specifically assigned to look into the issue of the rights of Aboriginal peoples unlike the previous UN representatives who visited Canada for the same purpose but under different mandates.

James Anaya, for his part, told journalists that he had come to Canada on the invitation of First Nations to listen to their concerns.

He said he would prepare a first draft report in a few months and submit it to the Canadian government to get a response on the issues raised in the draft and accommodate that response in the final version to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.

Asked how effective he thought his mission could be, Anaya said he hoped he could “shine light on the issues and help to focus greater attention on them.”

Apart from Alberta, Ayana also visited First Nations in Quebec, Ontario and B.C.