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Caledonia land dispute spilling over

At the UN: Aboriginal relations in Ontario, Alberta raising questions about human rights

Kate Harries
Globe & Mail
May 5, 2006

[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]

Canada's dealings with aboriginal people in Ontario and Alberta are being used to cast doubt on its qualifications to join a new United Nations human rights body.

Representatives of the Six Nations of the Grand in Southern Ontario and the Lubicon Lake Indian Nation in Northern Alberta were in Geneva this week to give different UN human rights bodies a similar message: Canada should be held to account.

Federal officials will be questioned in Geneva today and Monday about Canada's record.

At issue is Canada's candidacy as a member of the new UN Human Rights Council. The 191-member General Assembly of the UN is to vote May 9 on which states will sit on the 47-member council.

In a letter also released Monday, the International Committee for the Indians of the Americas expresses "reservations" about Canada's candidacy because in 1990 and 2005 the UN Human Rights Committee found Canada in violation of the international covenant on civil and political rights.

Last October, the committee urged the federal government to resume negotiations on Lubicon land claims and to take steps to ensure that logging and oil and gas extraction do not jeopardize the band's human and aboriginal land rights. But "unbridled" resource exploitation, combined with environmental damage and loss of their traditional economy, have triggered massive social and health problems, the Indians of the Americas letter states.

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Ambra Dickie said she was unable to comment on the letter as it had not been officially received through Canada's permanent mission to the UN.

"Canada takes its human rights obligations very seriously," Ms. Dickie said, adding that Canada has much to bring to the new council.

The Lubicon are a Cree community whose territory is now a frontier for oil sands exploration. Band councillor Alphonse Ominayak was in Geneva this week to address the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

"Canada has not dealt in any way with us," Mr. Ominayak said in a telephone interview from Geneva.

"It's a devastating situation where there is all kinds of activity around our traditional hunting and trapping areas," he said. "It's polluting most of our waters -- we have to haul our own water and we can't eat the fish any more."

At another meeting on Monday, a representative of the Six Nations of the Grand, embroiled in a high-profile dispute in Caledonia, accused Canadian authorities of "genocidal practices."

"We are the true sovereign and we're asking our friends and allies to intervene in this situation," Doreen Silversmith told a meeting of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, also held in Geneva.

She told the committee her people are "in a serious and volatile situation brought on by the irresponsible and genocidal practices of the corporation you call Canada."

There are strong parallels between the Lubicon situation and that of the Six Nations, said Ed Bianchi of KAIROS, a Toronto-based coalition of church groups. "The whole issue of Caledonia is a manifestation of what happens when Canada doesn't respect the right to self-determination, which is the No. 1 article of the covenant that we're being reviewed on," he said.

Mr. Bianchi will be on hand when federal representatives are questioned by the economic, social and cultural rights committee today and Monday. KAIROS is one of several Canadian groups that have made submissions to the committee about what they say is Canada's failure to provide basic rights to some groups.

Special to The Globe and Mail, with a report from Canadian Press

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