Toronto – August 1, 2013 – Every year, on 9 August, the world celebrates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This day was created to raise awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide, and honours the first meeting of the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations held in Geneva on 9 August 9, 1982, that drafted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
Indigenous peoples are descendants of the original people or occupants of lands before these lands were taken over or conquered by others. For the approximately 370 million indigenous peoples in some 90 countries around the world, UNDRIP is an expression of their rights and place in the global community. UNDRIP addresses the most significant human rights issues affecting indigenous peoples including their right to self-determination, spirituality, language, lands, territories and resources.
The Harper government originally cast a "NO" vote at the United Nations against UNDRIP. Eventually, in 2010, it signed on — but only half-heartedly, by noting it considered UNDRIP an "aspirational" document, and "non-legally binding". This cynical attitude has shamefully guided the Harper government in its ongoing blatant discrimination when it comes to equitable funding for education, health care, and social services for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Harper government's stripping of the environmental review process also strikes at the UNDRIP rights of Canada's indigenous peoples by limiting Aboriginal input on megaprojects that impact their lands and lives — rights that are also clearly stipulated in the UN Declaration.
The Harper government must act — not just aspire — to implement UNDRIP now. On August 9 and throughout the year, as Canada’s most progressive private-sector union we have also joined with our community partner, the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCS) to raise awareness and call for action on the challenges facing our Aboriginal brothers and sisters through national campaigns including Our Dreams Matter Too, Jordan's Principle and Shannen's Dream. On the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, and throughout the year, let us also share and celebrate the tremendous contributions embedded in the fabric of Canada through the culture, traditions, and knowledge of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters.