Sep 7/95: Gustafsen Lake-IITC support letter


International Indian Treaty Council Information Office
54 Mint St. #400
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: (415) 512-1501
Fax: (415) 512-1507

                                     September 7, 1995

Premier of Canada Jean Chretien
fax: (613) 941-6900
The International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) has been recognized since 1977, as a category II Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with consultative status by the United Nations. In this capacity, the IITC is concerned with the observance of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Indigenous Peoples throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands, including Canada.

We are informed by the En'owkin Centre and other Indigenous groups, of a confrontation at Gustafsen Lake, British Columbia, between an unarmed Shuswap elder attempting to keep cattle from defecating on Sacred Traditional Shuswap Lands and fifteen armed cowboys sent to forcibly remove him. The situation has now dangerously escalated to a confrontation between group of Indigenous men intent on protecting their Sacred Lands and both the provincial and federal governments. The initial injection of governmental force, heavily armed police swat teams, has now escalated to a siege of federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in armored personnel carriers. The sound of shots was reported at the site on September 6 and 7, 1995. All communication with the besieged Indigenous People has been cut off by the RCMP.

We are further informed by the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Mohawk National News Service that on Wednesday, September 6, 1995, at about 9:30 pm, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) opened fire on a group of unarmed Pottawatimi and Ojibway men, women and children attempting to defend Sacred Burial Grounds located in Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESC) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) includes the right to Self Determination (Common Article 1, ICESC and ICCPR); the right to Life (Universal Declaration, Art.3); and, the Right to Thought, Conscience and Religion (Universal Declaration Art. 18, and ICCPR Art. 27). Whether or not the government of Canada chooses to respect and observe Indigenous Peoples' human rights and fundamental freedoms as Peoples, the Human Rights Committee has found that Canada is bound to observe the right of Indigenous Peoples as individuals, " community with other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practice their own religion, [and] to use their own language." Lubicon Lake Band of Canada, Case No. 167/1984.

The IITC would further remind the Canadian government that the definition of Genocide in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which Canada is a party, includes: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; and (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. Art. II.

We remind the Canadian government that in December, 1994, the United Nations declared the Decade of Indigenous Peoples, its goal being "to strengthen international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people." General Assembly Resolution 49/214. We also remind the government of Canada of the Preamble to the Universal Declaration, stating that recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

We urge the government of Canada to immediately de-escalate its armed actions against the Indigenous Peoples in Gustafsen Lake, British Columbia and Ipperwash Provincial Park, Ontario, and to initiate a process of peaceful and mutually respectful dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples concerned, to address in a serious and meaningful manner the multitude of problems that have given rise to these dangerous and tragic situations.

Because of the seriousness of these concerns, we must require your immediate response addressing these critical matters.

Alberto Saldamando
General Counsel, IITC

cc:  Assistant Secretary General        Julian Berger, Indigenous
     for Human Rights, UN               Affairs, Centre for Human
     M. Ibrahima Fall                   Rights, Geneva
     fax: (41) 22-917-0123              Fax:(41) 22-917-0123 
     (With cover letter requesting an immediate inquiry)

     M. Andre Ouelette,                 Ambassador to the United
     Foreign Minister of Canada         States Raymond Chretien
     fax: (613) 996-8924                fax: (202) 682-7678

     Governor General of Canada         Aboriginal Affairs Minister
     M. Romeo LeBlanc                   of Canada, M. Cashore
     fax: (604) 941-7536                fax: (604) 356-1124

     B.C. Premier Michael Harcourt      Ontario Premier Mike Harris
     fax: (604) 387-0087                fax: (416) 325-3745

     Canadian Ambassador for Circumpolar          
     Affairs Mary Simon                 
     fax: (613) 992-6424                 

     CFUV: Attn Community Affairs       Canadian Indian Affairs
     fax: (604) 721-7112                Minister, M. Irwin, 
                                        fax: (819) 997-0380

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