Canada was before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on Feb. 23 for the start of two days of questioning about the country’s record on racial discrimination. The committee is a high level UN Treaty Monitoring Body and Canada is required to report every four years. Canada’s report focused on what they considered to be positive benchmarks and achievements towards the elimination of racial discrimination in Canada. Alternative reports challenged Canada’s record and presented a different perspective. Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation was part of the Indigenous delegation in Geneva and stated, “It’s a rosy picture that was painted for the expert members at the United Nations. Members of the Canadian delegation described such a great place to live to the expert committee that I thought, I want to move to this place that they are portraying.”
Over 30 Indigenous Nations and organizations submitted alternative reports prior to the session, which was attended by more than 20 Indigenous representatives. Indigenous delegates met with CERD members individually and in small groups to provide additional information. Core concerns include Canada’s attempts to extinguish Aboriginal rights and title; appropriation of lands and resources; ongoing treaty violations; failure to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; imposition of mining, Tar Sands and other development projects both in and outside Canada without the free prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples; and imposed “settlement” processes that fail to respect Aboriginal title. Inter generational impacts of Canada’s residential school policies; the continued removal of large numbers of Indigenous children from their homes and communities; extreme poverty and growing economic disparities between Indigenous peoples and non Indigenous Canadian society; disproportionate rates of incarceration of Indigenous youth, men and women; failure to address the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada; and continued discrimination in education, housing and access to justice were also addressed. The CERD’s final report and recommendations will be posted on the UN CERD website, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/ by March 9. Archived webcasts of Canada’s review sessions are on the UN website, http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp.